UK sets out new law to break up errant banks
Britain is shaking up its system of bank regulation following the 2008 financial crisis, when the government poured 65 billion pounds ($102 billion) of taxpayers' money into rescues of Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds.
Banks were already expected to have to "ring-fence" activities such as standard bank accounts and payments from riskier investment banking, something which will hit major players such as Barclays, HSBC, and RBS.
But Osborne said he is prepared to go further. "If a bank flouts the rules, the regulator and the Treasury will have the power to break it up altogether - full separation, not just a ring-fence. In the jargon, we will 'electrify the ring fence', he said in a speech.
The break up of banks which fail to keep to the rules was demanded by lawmakers who reviewed government plans late last year.
Under the new rules, the Bank of England will monitor whether banks ensure that risks taken by their investment banking arms do not endanger their retail sides.
If the central bank finds a breach, the government will make the final politically-sensitive decision on whether to impose a "nuclear option" of forcing banks to sell one of the two arms.
Osborne said the government could strengthen sanctions against directors of failed banks to prevent them from working in the industry. "I want to see how we can strengthen the sanctions regime for senior bankers
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