Hector Sants has resigned as head of the UK’s Financial Services Authority. Brooke Masters, the FT’s chief regulation correspondent, talks about the future of regulation in the UK.

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My colleague Martin Wolf has addressed the guilty plea of the NatWest Three to wire fraud, possibly in return for serving jail sentences in Britain, with a spendidly coruscating attack on the plea bargaining in the US judicial system.

I have nothing to add but I am intrigued by the notion of wire fraud, which crops up all the time in US white-collar crime cases such as the recent conviction of Conrad Black. It has always seemed odd to me that the US treats wire fraud and mail fraud as separate offences from fraud itself, as if the method by which the crime is committed trumps the crime itself.

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I got a quick response to my Saturday column below from Jim Rogers, the investor who featured in it. I am posting it with his permission because I think it is of wider interest: “Great article! A couple of thoughts: Yes, China’s stock market may well be entering a bubble phase unless something saves them soon. However the small stock market is very different from the currency market. Having said that: The US dollar is overdue for a rally against many currencies. Whenever there is this much bearishness about any asset, it usually rallies for awhile. Who knows if it will this time? If it does, I hope to move the rest of my assets out of US dollars. We have moved to Singapore instead of China since the pollution is so horrible in China. The UK was the richest, most powerful nation in the world in 1918. Within one generation, it was a mess. Within 2 generations, it was bankrupt and had to be bailed out by the IMF despite some great rallies to the upside during the 2 generations. Those who moved to London in 1807 were brilliant. Those who moved to NY in 1907 were brilliant. We will see about those who move to Asia in 2007. I hope we can discuss this again before 2107, but will write again then in any case. Jim Rogers”

Zipcar and Flexcar, the two biggest US car-sharing companies, are to merge, they announced today. The merger caught my attention because, as I noted below, I don’t own a car and so occasionally use Zipcars to get around, collect shopping etc.

Zipcar lets you book cars online at between $10 and $16 an hour in New York. For that price, you get the petrol and insurance thrown in, which makes it cheap enough. When you get to the local parking garage, where the cars are kept, you use a smart card to unlock the one you have booked. Read more

Snoopstamp According to OneSky Jets, a private jet charter company in the US, 15 per cent of its customers say their main reason for chartering a jet is to fly their dog, cat or other pet around.

I have observed before that the twin phenomena of growing dispersion of wealth and sentimentality towards animals is starting to produce bizarre effects. Leona Helmsley, the hotel magnate, left her dog Trouble a $12m trust fund when she died earlier this year. Read more

Invisible_manOur old friend, the person familiar with the situation, has been hard at work in the past few days. He (or she, since we do not know his or her identity) has popped up all over the place.

In The Wall Street Journal today, for example, "informed individuals" have been chattering about the severance package that Stan O’Neal can expect when he steps down as chairman and chief executive of Merrill Lynch. Meanwhile, "people familiar with the firm" told the Journal on Monday that Larry Fink, chief executive of BlackRock, was a prime contender to succeed Mr O’Neal.

But the person familiar with the situation is an equal opportunity blabber. He (or she) also turned up in the Financial Times on Monday. People "familiar with the matter" predicted that Blackstone Group could walk away from a deal to buy part of PHH, a unit of General Electric. Simultaneously, people "close to the situation" suggested that the Ford family had cooled on the idea of selling the family firm.

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I spent yesterday afternoon at the New School in New York listening to a panel of Senators and one Congressman discussing what to do about the US healthcare system. They were sponsors of rival bills in Congress intended to reform the expensive and inefficient status quo.

Aiming off for the fact that it was a New York academic audience confronting a bunch of inside-the-Beltway reformers, a few things struck me. Read more

Pumpkin_2Some things do not change. It is late October and there are pumpkins and cobwebs on stoops in Brooklyn.

On Saturday night, my New York subway carriage was filled with people in Halloween costumes, including a tall Frankenstein with a bolt through his neck who stood up and roared to general applause. Read more

Oneal_2 Now seems a good time to revisit my post earlier this month on which bank chief executive was most likely to lose his job: Chuck Prince of Citigroup, Jimmy Cayne of Bear Stearns or Stan O’Neal of Merrill Lynch.

At the time, Mr O’Neal was in a fairly distant third place, but that was before Merrill bumped up its already enormous debt write-down and gave the impression of not knowing what it was doing. Read more

Further to my New York-London round trip last week (and my NyLon column), I thought I should note my impressions of the journey, given that there is so much controversy at the moment in New York about whether US immigration and security measures are putting off visitors.

Michael Bloomberg, New York City’s mayor, regularly expresses concern that the country does not give a warm enough welcome to people visiting, or wanting to come and work in, New York. Justin Fox of Time argued the other day that, although he ranks New York a better city to live in, immigration officials here ought to be friendlier.

So here is my off-the-cuff comparison:

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Richard Florida picks up my mention of the growing role of city-states in the global economy on his blog. He mentions an interesting study that suggests that 40 mega-regions with output of more than $100bn produce more than 66 per cent of world output.

Almost as interesting is that the study identifies economically powerful regions by night-time light emissions seen on satellite photographs. It is always fascinating to look at such photographs and see, for example, the dispiriting lack of night-time light across vast swathes of Africa.

Last_tycoons It was a fun evening at the FT and Goldman Sachs Business Book awards dinner in London last night and congratulations to Bill Cohan, whose book The Last Tycoons beat off stiff competition from Alan Greenspan’s Age of Turbulence and the rest of the shortlist to win.

In the three years I have been on the judging panel, I think this was the hardest decision for the panel to make. But I am glad Bill won for a couple of reasons. Read more


Column on the Financial Times comment page, October 25th Read more

Lagarde_iv I have just walked a few blocks over to see Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister, at the annual conference in New York organised by Paris Europlace, the organisation that promotes the city and the country as an investment and finance centre.

I last bumped into Ms Lagarde in Davos in January when she was the trade minister but she has since been promoted to become the only woman finance minister in the G8 by Nicolas Sarkozy.

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Last night, I went to see Michael Clayton. I do like a thriller in which a lone figure takes on the evil force of the dark corporation and George Clooney, in the title role of the lawyer-fixer who gets an attack of conscience does not disappoint.

It made me think about why corporations and corporate executives are almost always villains in Hollywood films. There is a grand tradition of the sinister corporation reaching back to Soylent Green, a sci-fi tale about a company that makes biscuits out of people. Sorry if I have just given away the plot, but you have had 30 years to see it.

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