| LONDON, Sept 25
LONDON, Sept 25 A top Church of England bishop
has told bankers those who speculate on falling share prices in
the financial sector are "bank robbers".
Archbishop of York John Sentamu, the church's second-ranking
clergyman, targeted short-sellers who he said had driven
Britain's biggest mortgage lender HBOS HBOS.L to accept a
takeover bid from rival Lloyds TSB (LLOY.L).
"To a bystander like me, those who made 190 million pounds
($353 million) deliberately underselling the shares of HBOS ...
are clearly bank robbers and asset strippers," he said in a
speech to international bankers in London's financial district
on Wednesday evening.
Sentamu's speech coincided with the publication of an
article by the leader of the global Anglican church, Archbishop
of Canterbury Rowan Williams, also calling for better regulation
of financial markets.
In an article in the Spectator magazine, Williams said the
crisis "exposes the element of basic unreality in the situation
-- the truth that almost unimaginable wealth has been generated
by equally unimaginable levels of fiction".
Short sellers -- who sell borrowed stock hoping its price
will fall so they can buy it back more cheaply -- have faced
strong criticism for aggressively targeting banks such as HBOS,
driving down their shares and undermining investor confidence.
Responding to the concerns, Britain and the United States
have temporarily banned short-selling of financial stocks.
"We find ourselves in a market system which seems to have
taken its rules of trade from 'Alice in Wonderland', where the
share value of a bank is no longer dependent on the strength of
its performance but rather on the willingness of the government
to bail it out," Sentamu said.
Williams also criticised lending and borrowing that was not
about "equipping someone to do something specific, but
exclusively about enabling profit".
EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES
Probing the causes of the global financial market crisis,
Williams criticised some financial transactions as the invisible
"Emperor's new clothes".
A collapse in U.S. subprime mortgages -- loans to borrowers
with patchy credit histories -- has sent shockwaves through the
global financial system.
Banks bundled together subprime mortgages and then parcelled
them out to investors who thought they carried little risk. As
liquidity dried up, the value of these securities has been
marked down sharply.
Some financial institutions have either collapsed, been
nationalised or forced to sell out to stronger rivals.
U.S. President George W. Bush's administration has proposed
a $700 billion plan to bail out the U.S. financial system.
Echoing politicians such as French President Nicolas Sarkozy
who have criticised financial market excess, Williams said there
would have to be greater regulation of the financial sector.
The Association of Private Client Investment Managers and
Stockbrokers, grouping more than 200 firms, hit back at the
bishops' criticism of short-selling.
"It is market abuse which is wrong and this can occur both
when holding either long or short positions," the group's chief
executive, David Bennett, said in a statement.
(Editing by Frank Prenesti and Philippa Fletcher)