In a recent speech, Therese Chambers, the newly appointed Co-Executive Director of Enforcement at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), highlighted the strong alignment between enforcement work and the FCA’s overall strategy. Emphasising the importance of cooperation, transparency, and accountability, the speech shed light on recent cases and initiatives that demonstrate the FCA’s commitment to protecting consumers and maintaining the integrity of financial markets.
Collaborative Leadership and Enhanced Capabilities
The speech introduced Steve Smart, the incoming Co-Executive Director of Enforcement, and emphasised the collaborative leadership approach both directors will bring to the FCA. With their extensive but distinct experiences, they aim to enhance the FCA’s enforcement capabilities and ensure a comprehensive coverage of the agency’s jurisdiction.
Steve Smart, previously the director of intelligence at the National Crime Agency, was described as bringing a no-nonsense approach to the table. The FCA consider that his expertise in uncovering hidden activities will leave wrongdoers with ‘nowhere to hide’. This, combined with the FCA’s ongoing improvements in data, technology and digital tools, creates an environment where regulatory breaches are increasingly difficult to conceal.
Responsible Behaviour and Unusual Collaboration
The speech highlighted a remarkable case that deviated from the typical enforcement process. Lighthouse Advisory Services, responsible for providing unsuitable advice to customers transferring out of their British Steel Pension Scheme, was censured by the FCA. However, instead of imposing a financial penalty, the FCA acknowledged the proactive redress exercise conducted by the new owners of Lighthouse, Quilter.
Quilter demonstrated a rare level of responsibility by taking ownership of the unsuitable advice, even though it was provided before their acquisition of Lighthouse. They not only offered redress to affected customers but also improved their control framework and cooperated fully with the FCA. Therese Chambers highlighted that this serves as a model example for other firms, emphasising the significance of taking responsibility and cooperating with regulators.
Punishment and Deterrence
Enforcement is a crucial aspect of the FCA’s strategy, aiming to ensure real and meaningful consequences for breaches by firms and individuals. The speech stressed the importance of punishment as a deterrent to fraudulent activities and highlighted the need for early detection and cooperation from within the industry.
Investments in data and technology have significantly enhanced the FCA’s ability to detect and investigate fraudulent practices. By actively collaborating with big tech firms, the FCA has formed a Financial Promotion Enforcement Taskforce to prevent harmful products and services from being advertised. These assertive measures were said to demonstrate the FCA’s commitment to intervening decisively in cases of financial promotion breaches.
Recent FCA Enforcement Actions
The speech provided an overview of the FCA’s enforcement actions in the past financial year. With financial penalties totalling nearly £216 million, successful convictions in binary option fraud cases and ongoing investigations into market manipulation, money laundering, insider dealing and investment fraud,the FCA’s enforcement efforts were said to have been robust.
Notably, 20 individuals are currently facing charges in criminal courts due to the FCA’s actions. The speech also highlighted the conviction of the Currie brothers for fraud and money laundering related to peer-to-peer style investments. Such cases illustrate the FCA’s determination to impose penalties and seek justice for harmed consumers.
Compensation for Woodford Equity Income Fund Investors
The speech addressed the FCA’s proposed compensation package of £235 million for investors who suffered losses when the Woodford Equity Income Fund collapsed. Link Fund Solutions, the authorised corporate director, was found to have made critical errors in managing the fund’s liquidity, resulting in unfair treatment of loyal investors.
To bolster available funds for redress, the parent company of Link Fund Solutions has voluntarily agreed to contribute up to £60 million. This proposed scheme offers affected investors the best chance to obtain a better outcome for their losses, underscoring the FCA’s commitment to investor protection and the pursuit of fair compensation.
Confronting Inappropriate Activities
The FCA remains committed to addressing fraud and inappropriate activities within authorised firms. The speech cited the case of WealthTek LLP, where the FCA utilised its regulatory powers to cease the firm’s activities and obtained freezing orders to safeguard assets. Working in collaboration with the Northumbria Police, the FCA’s efforts led to the arrest of an individual connected to the suspected fraud.
These actions demonstrate the FCA’s determination to take swift and assertive measures to protect consumers and preserve the integrity of financial markets. By actively engaging with law enforcement agencies, the FCA maximizes its effectiveness in combating financial crime and ensuring wrongdoers face the consequences of their actions.
Proactive Measures: Preventing Issues and Encouraging Transparency
Therese Chambers emphasised the importance of firms taking proactive measures to prevent issues from arising and promptly addressing them when they do occur. Rather than relying solely on regulators to clean up the aftermath of misconduct, she stated that firms should establish robust risk management practices and cultivate a culture of responsible conduct.
Transparency and cooperation were highlighted as essential components of firms doing the right thing. The FCA encouraged firms to be forthcoming with information and to recognise the value of open dialogue with regulators. Firms that actively engage in ethical conduct, transparency, and cooperation will not only protect their customers but also build trust and credibility within the industry.
How Neopay can help
As the financial landscape evolves and regulatory requirements become more stringent, firms must navigate complex compliance challenges to ensure their operations remain in line with regulatory expectations. As a leading compliance solutions provider, Neopay offers a comprehensive suite of services to assist businesses in meeting their regulatory obligations. With our deep expertise in financial regulation, we can provide tailored solutions that address specific compliance needs. By partnering with us, firms can streamline their compliance processes, reduce risks and demonstrate a commitment to responsible and compliant operations. Contact our team of compliance specialists to learn more about how we can support your business.