FCA accused of using ‘tactics to maximise anxiety and stress’

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Aug 09, 2019

A complainant says the FCA may have been using tactics to “maximise anxiety and stress” by imposing tight deadlines on firms it approaches with requests for information.

Complaints Commissioner Antony Townsend has also called on the FCA to reconsider its policy on call recording in light of the complainant’s case to increase transparency.

The complainant made a formal complaint to the FCA about its supervisory team’s investigation of their firm last August.

This included concerns that calls to firms are not recorded and there are therefore no “checks and balances” on what has been said in retrospect.

The complaint also questioned the conduct of the supervision team. It says they were required to sign a request for information without the opportunity to read it before a meeting with the FCA enforcement team.

The FCA also issued conflicting deadlines for responding to their 97-question request for information during the investigation, the complainant alleges.

In a final report, Townsend says: “[The complainant] considered the presence of a member of the supervision team at an enforcement meeting highly unusual, especially since it was not mentioned in an email from enforcement listing attendees nor when you were picked up from FCA reception on the day.

“You entered the room to find the staff member presiding over the head of the meeting room and therefore felt there was no opportunity at the meeting with the enforcement team to explain openly the problems faced with the supervision team.”

The complainant says its dealings with the FCA’s supervision and enforcement teams following the supervisory probe also led to “deadlines upon further deadlines from questions upon questions.”

The complaint says: “This made it extremely confusing to map exactly what questions had to be answered by what date.”

However, Townsend says the presence of supervisory and enforcement team members could not be considered inappropriate given the nature of their co-work investigating the complainant’s firm.

He says: “I think it was reasonable in the circumstances for the staff member to attend, [though] I consider that it would have been courteous of the enforcement team to have advised you of this in advance.”

The FCA was ultimately unable to reach a conclusion on the complainant’s original complaint regarding the conduct of the supervision team because of the lack of call recordings.

Townsend says: “I agree with the complainant that it is of concern if there is no record of important conversations that lead to decisions about a firm’s activities and which will affect individuals and businesses.

“I recommend that the FCA consider whether it should take steps to record such calls. However, I have concluded that the FCA’s supervision team dealt with the complainant and this case fairly and professionally and was reasonable.”

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