Simon English: Tighter rules still won't stop the tequila snorters in the City

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As part of its usual initiation ceremony for newcomers, a broking firm hired a room above a pub near Liverpool Street.

The newbies were tied to chairs with their own belts. Booze was not so much drunk as inhaled. A man in a clown suit rocked up with an electric razor.

He shaved the captives’ hair off. The assembled brokers took it in turns to snort tequila from the newly bald heads of the victims.

An onlooker described it as “four hours of total chaos, then everyone suddenly got the train home”.

Like you, I am totally appalled by this behaviour, partly because it is an affront to the proper functioning of markets and partly because I don’t get invited to those sorts of parties.

When was this Wolf of Wall Street-style outrage? At the height of the first tech bubble? Just before the spectacular crash of 2008? No, about a year ago.

There is no doubt that the City is a sterner place and that the rules around entertaining clients are tight, at least at top firms.

There is also no doubt that money remains, as one Tullett Prebon broker said to the Financial Conduct Authority, a people business.

Trades go to the cheapest, most-efficient place. If the cheapest, most-efficient place happens to be where your mate Steve works, well, where’s the harm?

In some ways, today’s FCA statement about historic ongoings at Tullett is a throwback to a lost era. And good riddance to it.

On another level, it is very hard to prevent humans from being human. 

No amount of new rules can stop mates hanging out with each other, and sometimes doing each other favours.

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October 11, 2019 |
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