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Cable urges shareholders to act

Business Secretary Vince Cable has urged shareholders in British banks to "get a stronger grip" on the boards and executives responsible for "systemic abuse".

He said that nobody at Barclays was prepared to take responsibility for the scandal that has engulfed the company in recent days and that shareholders ought to take action.

"Regulators are a backstop: they don't own banks," he wrote in an article for The Observer.

"The governance at the top of our leading banks has been shown to be lamentably weak. No one at the top of Barclays will take responsibility for systemic abuse.

"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."

His call came as Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond faces demands for his resignation and there appeared to be moves by investors against the bank's chairman, Marcus Agius. Both are to be questioned by the Treasury Select Committee this week.

Ministers are to order an independent review into the inter-bank lending rate in the wake of revelations that it was rigged by bankers at Barclays and other financial institutions. The review will consider the future operation of the so-called Libor rate and the possibility of introducing criminal sanctions for its manipulation.

The move did not satisfy Labour, however, whose leader Ed Miliband insisted the public would not accept anything less than a full-scale independent inquiry into the culture and practices of banking.

Lord Turner, chairman of the Financial Services Authority, said there had already been "significant steps" to prevent the Libor scandal happening again and that he did not believe similar behaviour was taking place now.

But he said the malpractice was not covered by criminal law.

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