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FCA accused of using ‘tactics to maximise anxiety and stress’

A complainant says the FCA may have been using tactics to “maximise anxiety and stress” by imposing tight deadlines on firms it approaches with requests for information.

Complaints Commissioner Antony Townsend has also called on the FCA to reconsider its policy on call recording in light of the complainant’s case to increase transparency.

The complainant made a formal complaint to the FCA about its supervisory team’s investigation of their firm last August.

This included concerns that calls to firms are not recorded and there are therefore no “checks and balances” on what has been said in retrospect.

The complaint also questioned the conduct of the supervision team. It says they were required to sign a request for information without the opportunity to read it before a meeting with the FCA enforcement team.

The FCA also issued conflicting deadlines for responding to their 97-question request for information during the investigation, the complainant alleges.

In a final report, Townsend says: “[The complainant] considered the presence of a member of the supervision team at an enforcement meeting highly unusual, especially since it was not mentioned in an email from enforcement listing attendees nor when you were picked up from FCA reception on the day.

“You entered the room to find the staff member presiding over the head of the meeting room and therefore felt there was no opportunity at the meeting with the enforcement team to explain openly the problems faced with the supervision team.”

The complainant says its dealings with the FCA’s supervision and enforcement teams following the supervisory probe also led to “deadlines upon further deadlines from questions upon questions.”

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The complaint says: “This made it extremely confusing to map exactly what questions had to be answered by what date.”

However, Townsend says the presence of supervisory and enforcement team members could not be considered inappropriate given the nature of their co-work investigating the complainant’s firm.

He says: “I think it was reasonable in the circumstances for the staff member to attend, [though] I consider that it would have been courteous of the enforcement team to have advised you of this in advance.”

The FCA was ultimately unable to reach a conclusion on the complainant’s original complaint regarding the conduct of the supervision team because of the lack of call recordings.

Townsend says: “I agree with the complainant that it is of concern if there is no record of important conversations that lead to decisions about a firm’s activities and which will affect individuals and businesses.

“I recommend that the FCA consider whether it should take steps to record such calls. However, I have concluded that the FCA’s supervision team dealt with the complainant and this case fairly and professionally and was reasonable.”

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Comments

There are 6 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Redolent of the famous quote: “Be afraid, be very afraid”.

  2. In the interests of fairness surely an adviser firm has the right to record any conversations, meetings etc.

  3. I my experience this is nothing new, and they (FCA) have been using these tactics since the early arrow visits.

    Now these sadistic bully’s, are well honed to cause maximum stress, fear and anxiety, one only has to read and listen to the terminology coming from the top to know its filtered down to the teams on the ground.

    This is exactly what is meant in the phrase “absolute power corrupts absolutely”

    So the upshot is; Townsend couldn’t find fault in the FCA because of the lack of recorded phone calls….. poor, very poor, so sided with the unaccountable supervision team members and all but dismissed the complainants view.

  4. I would much rather have recordings and notes (even if there is a restriction on their use) than rely on the word of someone else who might conveniently have a different version of events. The rule of law must surely be above all else. There is something seriously wrong with any organisation which considers it fair or reasonable to only have their own version of events available as evidence.

    • No surprise that there’s no record of what the FCA staff said and that it differs from what the firm says happened. The FCA need to be VERY careful as all mobile phones seem to have a record facility now so can be used like a Dictaphone and all our calls via BT landline and mobile get recorded.

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