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A little light reading

It must be summer because the weather has turned colder, my approaching holiday fills me with worry – well, that’s more about the list of things to do before I go – and regulators and bureaucrats across Europe are clearing their desks at the expense of dumping on ours.

Last year, the FSA pledged to reduce the number of con-sultation papers issued and so far it has kept its word. But there is now a proliferation of “good practice” publications. The difficulty with these is that they are not subject to the for-mal scrutiny of the consultation pro-cess. While it would be rare for a project to be scrapped be-cause it didn’t sur-vive a regulatory “cost/benefit” analysis, they do provide a useful “post-hoc” accountability check.

At the FSA Annual Public Meeting, Callum McCarthy had some scathing things to say about European regulation not being subject to the full scrutiny of a formal “cost/benefit” analysis. He reassured the meeting that the MIFID would receive proper consideration before its implementation here.

The FSA has published its review of the enforcement process and I am struck by the pro-posal that before a case is referred to the Regulatory Decisions Com-mittee (RDC), it will be subject to an independent legal review.

The reduction in number of RDC members should also help those who stay to become more familiar with the process and so deliver greater consistency and reduce subjectivity in decision making.

The regulator has responded to the criticism that they have lacked expert-ise in certain fields by planning to recruit “Grey Panthers” – senior industry practition-ers who advise the regulator on market practice.

Points that will need scrutiny are the proposals to allow the RDC chairman to take decisions himself and the introduct-ion of what has been called a “plea bargaining” system. The FSA has proposed to offer firms a discount for early settlement to save their resources and speed up the process. This could see firms receive a “discount” off the proposed fine of up to 30% for early settlement. There is a worry that this may lead to firms capitulating to reduce their exposure.

Not only do members have a choice of summer reading between FSA papers or the latest Harry Potter novel but the Aifa consultation on the scope of member-ship should be factored in too. The consultation closes on Septem-ber 5.

Since CP 121 was published, firms have been digesting the proposals and finding ways to make depolar-isation work for them. Now it is time for Aifa to go thro-ugh the same exer-cise. I am pleased with the level of response to date but would be delighted if every member had their say.

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