Four In Five Want Bankers Prosecuted

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Four out of five people want individuals to be prosecuted when banks break the law, according to a new survey.

Research by consumer watchdog Which? also showed that two-thirds of people believe the Government will not act in their best interests when implementing banking reform.

And only one in five think the Financial Services Authority is effective in regulating UK banks.

The watchdog is calling on the Government to ensure criminal prosecutions can be brought against individuals - up to boardroom level - who have presided over corrupt practices.

It also wants the process of ring-fencing retail banking from investment banking to be fast-tracked.

Their push comes as the banking industry amid increasing anger over rate-fixing at Barclays.

The head of the Financial Services Authority, the industry regulator, has acknowledged tighter laws to deal with failing bankers.

Lord Turner told BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show: "I think if you go back over 20 years we started with a very light touch self-regulatory approach. Slowly, over the last 15 years or so, we have toughened approach.

"Further steps were made a few years ago to give us the ability to bring criminal charges in particular areas of market abuse, but they did not cover the libor market.

"I think we now have to look further and see whether we should strengthen these powers considerably on top of what we've got at the moment.

"It has been a gradual strengthening over time but I don't think it has gone far enough."

Chancellor George Osborne has confirmed that HSBC (LSE: HSBA.L - news) , RBS (LSE: RBS.L - news) and UBS (NYSEArca: DJCI - news) are also under investigation over the inter-bank rate rigging. On Sunday, Sky sources said RBS had sacked four employees over the last two years over the issue.

Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith said: "Consumers are clearly fed up with one banking scandal after another.

"Banks and bankers will continue to be seen as untouchable unless individuals are held to account for their actions and the culture of banking is changed for good.

"The fines handed down to banks are not a deterrent. Last week Barclays (LSE: BARC.L - news) was fined less than £60m in the UK, compared to £231m in the US, and has paid out £2bn in compensation and settlements in the last three years, but that seems to have little effect.

"The Government needs to change the rules so that criminal prosecutions can be brought against individuals if banks have flouted the rules.

"We also want the banking sector referred to the Competition Commission immediately. More competition is essential to force a change in the culture of British banking."

Meanwhile, Sky News' city editor Mark Kleinman has revealed Mr Osborne is to publish a consultation paper about clawing back bank directors' pay if their institutions fail.

Business Secretary Vince Cable told Sky News' Murnaghan programme that there was an "awful lot of cleaning up" to be done.

"(The public) just can't understand why people are thrown into jail for petty theft and these guys just walk away having perpetrated what looks like conspiracy."

Earlier, he said governance at the top of Britain's leading banks had been "lamentably weak".

"Shareholders, the owners, have a major responsibility here. I am bringing in legislation to strengthen their control over pay and bonuses, through binding votes, but shareholders have to get a stronger grip on weak boards and out-of-control executives," he wrote in The Observer.

Lord Turner, head of the Financial Services Authority, called for tighter laws on failing bankers.

"I think if you go back over 20 years we started with a very light touch self-regulatory approach. Slowly, over the last 15 years or so, we have toughened approach.

"Further steps were made a few years ago to give us the ability to bring criminal charges in particular areas of market abuse, but they did not cover the libor market.

"I think we now have to look further and see whether we should strengthen these powers considerably on top of what we've got at the moment.

"It has been a gradual strengthening over time but I don't think it has gone far enough."