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FSA refers seven mortgage firms for enforcement in industry clampdown

The FSA has referred seven firms to enforcement and forced 65 firms to undertake costly reviews after a series of investigations found several mortgage brokers continue to operate “well below standard”.

The 65 firms will have to undertake costly past business reviews or employ specialists to resolve problems.

A few firms have ceased business until they can rectify failings.

The FSA says it will begin a further review in January 2008 of mortgage quality of advice processes, and it is looking to report a considerable improvement when the work is concluded in June 2008.

The FSA is also currently carrying out a related project which is looking at the extent to which lenders are meeting the requirement to lend responsibly and expect to report the findings of this in spring 2008.

The reviews examined the assessment of affordability, self-certification mortgages, training and competence standards, and the effectiveness of senior management controls.

The self-cert review targeted 48 brokers several of whom were suspected of breaching FSA rules. The investigation confirmed many serious failings, including readiness to proceed with arranging a mortgage despite doubting the accuracy of financial information customers were giving them.

FSA retail intermediary sector leader Stephen Bland says: “During the reviews we saw a number of good brokers who are meeting the required standards and they are being undermined by the negligence or wilful non-compliance of others. We also saw some who despite having some way to go, were willing to engage with us and be helped to improve their performance, which is why we are providing so much guidance following these reviews. However there are still an unacceptable number of firms unwilling to change and they are damaging the rest of the industry.

“We found some firms willing to offer mortgages they know to be unaffordable and to accept self-cert business even where they had concerns that the financial information provided by the customer was implausible. These practices are completely inconsistent with Treating Customers Fairly – hence the large number of enforcement referrals and other regulatory actions.

Bland adds: “Overall there is a need for a big improvement in senior management’s use of management information to help achieve the fair treatment of their customers to achieve the progress we and the industry as a whole want to see.”

The FSA is also today publishing case studies and examples of good and poor practice to help firms assess and improve their own progress.

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