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Comment: European leaders ready to call time on laissez-faire model

At a meeting on Sunday, European leaders took steps toward a common position on oversight of financial markets and products, including hedge funds, and threatened to take action against 'unco-operative' tax havens.

Attendees at the summit, hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said afterwards in a statement: 'We have today underscored our conviction that all financial markets, products and participants must be subject to appropriate oversight or regulation, without exception and regardless of their country of domicile ... this is especially true for those private pools of capital, including hedge funds, that may present a systemic risk.'

They added: 'According to objective criteria to be based on ongoing work in relevant international institutions, a list of unco-operative jurisdictions and a toolbox of sanctions must be devised as soon as possible.'

The European leaders are hoping to present a united front at a G20 summit in London in five weeks' time that may well signal a move away from the laissez-faire attitude toward regulation of financial markets and institutions that has prevailed for the past quarter-century.

This is the view of as acute an observer as billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros (pictured), who argues that the current economic crisis has its roots in the financial deregulation launched by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Whatever the apportionment of blame for the crisis, it looks as though the financial industry as a whole is set to pay the price.

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