The Competition Commission’s accusation that banks colluded in currency trading has shocked almost everyone. Not me, though. I’ve always believed the way the big retail banks in particular operate is cartel-like (what else would one call the Banking Association SA?).
Four years ago I wrote to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to ask what he intended doing about excessively high bank charges (he did not reply). Remember, when he took office he said he was concerned. But after banks reportedly complained, the Treasury pressurised the Competition Commission to wind up their probe and let banks regulate themselves. Since then charges have increased significantly. In 2010 noninterest revenue was R38bn and R53bn in 2015.
For a long time banks have been untouchable and the recent bank-Gupta contagion entrenched the view that the banks are SA’s white knights, along with our putative hero at the bridge, Gordhan.