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MPs criticise FCA blunder in damning report

by: Carmen Reichman
  • 27/03/2015
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MPs criticise FCA blunder in damning report
MPs have criticised the regulator's handling of last year's media blunder around an upcoming closed book review, saying it had been a "major self-inflicted distraction" and "created a false market in life insurance shares".

A report by the Treasury committee said the regulator had breached its own listing rules by prematurely briefing a Telegraph journalist on an upcoming review of life insurers’ closed book business, the BBC reported.

It called on the regulator to commission further reviews of its internal proceedures, saying “problems still exist” and it might not have “fully grasped this”.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) had already commissioned an independent review last year, which led to Wheatley and other senior FCA officials losing their bonuses.

Head of supervision Clive Adamson had told the Telegraph in March last year the FCA would investigate whether people locked into pension plans were being treated unfairly.

That sparked fears about a possible effect on insurers’ profits and prompted some investors to sell their stakes, sending insurers’ share prices plunging.

Companies affected included Aviva, Legal & General and Prudential.

The FCA would have fined any regulated firm behaving in a similar way, committee chairman Andrew Tyrie (pictured) suggested.

He said: “By effectively breaching its own listing rules, the FCA itself created a false market in life insurance shares. Had a regulated firm behaved as the FCA did last March, the FCA is likely to have imposed a considerable fine.”

“The evidence from this episode suggests that problems may still exist at the FCA. It is not yet clear to the committee that the FCA has fully grasped this.”

Next steps

However, the report stopped short of calling for resignations and instead set out several steps the regulator should take over the next six months and report back.

It called on the executive committee, headed by chief executive Martin Wheatley, to examine communications methods and “poor working relationships” between divisions.

It also said the board, headed by chairman John Griffith-Jones, should commission an external review of its own effectiveness.

Both the FCA and the Prudential Regulation Authority should set out the responsibilities of senior officials in the same way the regulators are asking banks to do.

The FCA should stop briefing the media prematurely and should train its staff on how to handle price-sensitive information, the report concluded.

 

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