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Complaints Commissioner rebukes FSA for withholding information

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The Complaints Commissioner has reprimanded the FSA for withholding information relating to a complaint against it and stressed the need for “total transparency” from the Financial Conduct Authority.

Complaints Commissioner Sir Anthony Holland has published his annual report for 2012/13, to coincide with the final FSA annual report published last week.

Holland investigated complaints against the FSA if the complaint remained unresolved after an initial investigation by the regulator. This regime will continue under the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

In his annual report, Holland refers to a complaint last year relating the conduct of FSA staff during an informal meeting with an unnamed firm.

During the Commissioner’s investigation, Holland found correspondence had been withheld from both the FSA’s complaints team and from him, with information only coming to light after he had issued a preliminary decision.

Holland notes it should be down to the FSA’s complaints team and the Complaints Commissioner to decide what material is relevant to a complaint, not the FSA department concerned.

Holland says: “Failing to provide full disclosure to the complaints team and the Commissioner immediately suggest those who are the subject of a complaint, whether individuals or an area within the FSA, have acted inappropriately and are trying to ‘hide’ their actions.”

He added the success of the complaints regime needs to ensure “total transparency” whether investigations into complaints are internal or carried out by the Commissioner.

The Financial Conduct Authority says: “We agree that total transparency is necessary to ensure the objectives of the scheme are met.”

Evolve Financial Planning director Jason Witcombe says: “This is a pretty serious breach, and if an adviser was found to be deliberately withholding information from the regulator they would be in deep trouble.”

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