It is indeed true that we can make a case for prudential regulation of the financial markets. In theory we can at least. The bigger question, the one that all too rarely gets asked, is whether the prudential financial regulation we do get is worth having. The answer there isn’t so clear. Or, if I’m allowed to descend into opinion, it’s obvious that it isn’t.
Big financial institutions including Blackstone and Jupiter Asset Management have set strict caps on client lunches in the latest sign that the days of the City’s famously lavish wining and dining could be coming to an end.
The tradition of closing a deal over boozy lunches at expensive restaurants has been dying out for years, but a sweeping set of EU reforms known as Mifid II has forced firms to take further action so staff don’t step out of line.
As a result of the revamped rules Jupiter has recently told staff that they can splash no more than £50 on lunch with a client and can expense no more than £200 on each contact per year, sources told The Sunday Telegraph.
“That might sound like a lot, but if you’re hiring a private room and paying London prices, it adds up,” said one person affected by the stricter rules.
Another large investment firm, which did not want to be named, said it had also introduced a £50 cap so that it is not at risk of breaking the so-called “inducement” rules under Mifid II, which came into force in January.
Won’t that just kill off any possibility of another financial crisis? Rich people cannot spend more than £50 on a lunch with a business chum.
Do note that £50 in London isn’t a lot. You’re not all that far above Pret a Manger and a bottle of wine with that. Certainly not a Michelin starred tasting menu there.
But then this is the reality of the rules we get from that fount of bureaucracy, the European Union, isn’t it? Not that theoretically appropriate regulation to stop another financial crisis, but an insistence that bankers should not have better lunches than bureaucrats.
We could even have decent regulation. For example, we know that men are in general greater risk takers than women. So, if we have more women in finance then fewer risks will be taken, right? Nope, mixed gender environments lead both men and women into taking greater risks. Mixed gender environments are thus more risky than single sex. So, if we want to reduce risk taking we should throw either the men or the women out of finance.
Not what we’re going to do of course but it would actually reduce risk. Instead we get a limitation on lunch bills. My, aren’t we the lucky ones to be regulated so well?