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Court out

The FSA and the life offices caught up in the Lautro debacle have a long month ahead of them while they wait for the High Court to consider the appeal against naming those involved.

But the battle, which to date the FSA has fought for over four years and no doubt spent vast sums of industry money on, looks likely to rumble on long after the High Court’s decision.

The regulator is clearly keen to avoid naming and shaming the guilty parties, which could open up a potential barrage of claims from advisers that have been made to pay compensation to clients.

The case stems from a Freedom of Information request by IFA Defence Union chairman Evan Owen in January 2005. The Information Commission ruled in August 2007 that the FSA had to name the endowment mortgage providers which misused Lautro projections in setting premiums, meaning customers were given unrealistically high maturity figures.

Advisers say unrealistic projections led many consumers to complain about endowment shortfalls that were exaggerated or non-existent, which led to misselling payouts that would not have occurred if the projections were correct.

In October the Information Tribunal rejected the FSA’s argument that the Information Commissioner did not have the right to order the publication of the names of businesses involved.

In court this week, Justice Munby considered new closed evidence which refocused the FSA’s argument on Section 348 of the Financial Services and Markets Act.

The regulator’s lawyer claims that its hands are tied and under FSMA there is no way possible for them to disclose the information because of its confidential nature. This is difficult to swallow.

Owen says the FSA is protecting the life offices. It’s hard to see it any other way.

He says: “The FSA has dragged this out so that the two-year time limit on third party contribution claims has run out. The FSA is protecting the life offices and I want to know if it will give IFAs extra time to claim if its appeal is not upheld.”

I wonder how confidential an IFA’s misselling would remain if information proving their misconduct came to be in the regulator’s hands?

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