16 FEBRUARY 1991, Page 22

Regular folk

THE reason why most folk-songs are so terrible is, as Tom Lehrer said, that they are written by the people. That goes for self regulation too. Fimbra, which is sup- posed to regulate the middlemen of savings and investment — intermediaries, mana- gers, brokers — is as impressive and coherent as its membership, which is not

saying much. Now Fimbra is pleading that it cannot afford the cost of its compensa- tion scheme, and that unless it is given money, its surviving staff will have to jump out of its windows into the West India Dock and end it all. The regulators-in-chief at the Securities and Investments Board can dry their eyes. Fimbra's members live by commission and do not have to say how much it is. Sir Gordon Borne at the Office of Fair Trading and Peter Lilley at the Department of Trade, an unfamiliar alliance these days, are pressing for pub- lication. SIB resists, fearing that the shock would be lethal — that if the customers knew how much they were paying, Fim- bra's members would be out of business. That death-threat should suffice to make the members dip into their commissions and meet their liabilities. It is no advertise- ment for folk regulation.