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Brave FSA is big enough to own up to mistakes

In the last few days, the FSA has learned to admit it can get things wrong, the significance of which should not be underestimated by IFAs.

It is to the credit of the regulator and the Treasury that some clarity has been injected into the account of events leading up to Equitable&#39s closure to new business and subsequent advice given to policyholders.

The Treasury, after some initial reluctance, has decided it is better to get the report into the public domain many months before the more broad-based Penrose inquiry completes its work.

The FSA has also shown itself prepared to take criticism on the chin, with chairman Howard Davies taking a cut in his bonus – although many may argue he should have lost it all – because of the regulator&#39s mishandling of the situation.

Of course, honesty in itself will not heal the wounds of Equitable policyholders or its ailing life fund or even make a start on returning the life office to some semblance of normality. That must wait for a deal agreed by all policyholders and no one seriously believes that even if the vote goes the way the new board would like it to, that this will be the last we hear of the issue.

The vote could be closer than many people think despite Equitable&#39s polling evidence, while there will surely be years of litigation to follow. But the publication of the report and subsequent response is a sign that the FSA may be maturing as an organisation as it approaches N2.

It might even clear the way for more brave decisions which could bring advice back into the heart of financial services policy where it belongs.

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