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Chris Bell

Bank’s Court stands accused in forex scandal

Governance at the Bank of England has been a contentious issue since the 2008 financial crisis exposed failures in the regulatory system.

At the Bank, the 12-strong Court of Directors has non-executive responsibility to police the institution — but, in the words of Alistair Darling, the former chancellor, it has long been a powerless “adornment . . . reminiscent of Louis XIV’s court of the Sun King”.

Under parliamentary pressure last year, the court was overhauled. An oversight committee was created and given the authority to investigate the Bank’s performance. That committee, made up of eight members of Court, has published three reviews into arcane subjects, but now it faces its first real test. The Governor has handed it responsibility for the internal investigation into the Bank’s role in the forex scandal.

The committee has appointed Travers Smith, the law firm, to prepare a report and is believed to be planning to make a senior external appointment to review the allegations.

Despite the attempts to improve governance, MPs on the Treasury Select Committee are unlikely to be satisfied. Andrew Tyrie, the select committee’s chairman, has described accountability at the Bank as “byzantine” since the forex allegations broke. Another member, Pat McFadden, has suggested the Bank be subjected to a full external investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority.

The UK Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards was not satisfied by reforms to the Court 18 months ago. The oversight committee fell “well short of what is expected in a modern institution”, it said. It wanted a professional board that could bring in external reviewers to audit activities. It claimed the oversight committee was a “half-hearted” compromise.