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City whistleblowers set to get plea-bargain for share scares

The Chancellor looks set to give the FSA new powers to offer City whistleblowers lesser sentences or immunity from prosecution in return for evidence on market abuse.

The Government has voiced its concerns about such a system in the past but Alistair Darling believes that after the recent destabilisation of HBOS’s share price the move is now necessary.

He says FSA investigators would be better able to prosecute market manipulators if they had plea-bargaining powers similar to those used by US regulators.

He said: “I cannot allow us to get into a situation where people quite deliberately manipulate markets for personal gain and with the potential to destabilise the financial system. We have a duty to ensure we have clean efficient markets. We will come down hard on people manipulating the system.

“People are getting away with it and the time has come for us to start looking at it again. If a handful of people are up to no good, we have to make sure the authorities have the tools to do the job.”

LibDem Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable believes the FSA must get the powers. He says: “It has become apparent that, although it was possible to identify the people who benefited from HBOS short-selling, the authorities were unable to gather sufficient evidence to bring a criminal prosecution. Failing to provide the FSA with the same whistleblowing powers as other agencies was clearly an oversight.”

Tory Shadow Treasury Chief Secretary Philip Hammond says: “We support effective measures to tackle market abuse but this is a very minor initiative. Any regulatory response must be measured and careful. It would be a tremendous own goal to respond to the current difficulties with ill-targeted and burdensome regulation as a kneejerk reaction.”

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