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The purpose of the FSA’s Annual Public Meeting, held last week, was to give the public a chance to ask its own questions of the regulator. The problem was that the FSA refused to answer most of them.

After the customary speeches from a few at the top including chairman Callum McCarthy and chief executive Hector Sants, the floor was thrown open to the public.

One very disgruntled gentleman rattled off a long list of complaints and asked McCarthy why, when the FSA itself admits to massive failures in the last year, he and other executives accepted sizeable pay rises and bonuses.

Despite some supportive “here-hereing” from the audience, McCarthy refused to comment on the issue.

When another member of the public, who had obviously been burned by the Equitable Life debacle, asked McCarthy to comment on the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s report there was more sidestepping.

McCarthy said that for “legal reasons” the FSA could not comment on the report until the Government has given its official response.

But when pushed to give details about the exact legal reasons that prevented the regulator from commenting, McCarthy said it would be “inappropriate and impossible” and refused to take any more questions from the man.

Predictably, none of the panel members jumped at the chance to comment on the retail distribution review, instead pointing to the October paper as the next point of discussion on the issue.

For a meeting that is designed to allow the public a rare chance to have its questions answered, it offered very little in the way of clarification on the burning issues of the moment.

Sants was able to confirm though that industry fees are likely to jump to cover the clean-up costs for Northern Rock.

He said the FSA has put measures in place to try and ensure such mistakes are not repeated, but warned these would come at a cost.

He said: “The programme includes a commitment to have a minimum supervisory resource for all high impact firms. This will ensure the necessary focus and continuity with these key initiatives.

“It will lead to increased costs and that we are thus likely to exceed the levels of expenditure shown in the Business Plan for 2008/09 which will also have consequences for next year.”

Sants added that firms are “likely to see a significant increase in fees in 2009/10” but says the regulator will try to absorb as much of the increase as possible.

Other news in regulation over the last seven days included the FSA’s unveiling of the replacement for the Menu and Initial Disclosure Document.

The Services and Costs Disclosure Document will be introduced in August and will combine key information about firms’ services and costs.

Transitional arrangements will be put in place to enable firms to continue using the Menu and IDD until 31 August 2009.

FSA head of retail investment policy Andrew Sykes says: “Our emphasis on more principles-based regulation means focusing on the outcomes that matter and giving firms the freedom to meet these outcomes flexibly. This new material builds on the guidance that currently exists and will further simplify investment disclosure.”


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