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FSA hears no evil

Many financial services companies record conversations in the office as a standard practice and our story was based on recordings which were made in an office where a prominent sign warns that meetings and telephone conversations on the premises may be recorded.

As well as the regulator claiming that taping the activities of one of its teams goes against an adviser’s obligation to deal with it openly, it also believes that the effectiveness of the visits would be “undermined if our staff’s privacy is not respected”.

The FSA says it is happy for investigation and enforcement visits to be taped although, while used in enforcement matters to date, this is not an option that has been exercised for supervision proceedings.

In the case that was reported in this newspaper, the reason that the IFA took the step of record- ing the FSA was because he suspected that its staff were not carrying out their duties with the professionalism that should be expected of a public investigator which has the power to close down a business.

The FSA has been silent on the conduct of the monitoring team during the visit. Furthermore, since the article was published, the FSA has overhauled its enforcement procedures.

IFAs accept with good grace the constant scrutiny of the regulator through visits, examination of files and mystery shopping exercises, which could themselves be argued to stretch privacy rules to the limit.

This latest threat, taken with the recent episode where the FSA has refused to disclose the contents of chairman Callum McCarthy’s correspondence with Prime Minister Tony Blair over the PM’s public criticisms of the regulator, smack of an organisation wanting to operate in secrecy rather than in the open manner it demands of IFAs.

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