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Northern Bank and FSA in offshore sales dispute

A dispute between the FSA and Northern Bank could deter firms from moving offshore to sell into the UK.

Belfast-based Northern Bank has suspended mortgage sales into the UK from its Isle of Man arm while its lawyers and the regulator are locked in talks about whether the bank needs FSA authorisation for sales on the mainland.

At present, it is not regul- ated by the City watchdog to sell mortgages from the Isle of Man in the UK although it is regulated by Isle of Man regulator the Financial Supervision Commission. Northern Bank is FSA-regulated to sell other products.

Alexander Hall chief operating officer Andy Pratt says: “It will scare off lenders that are thinking of going offshore to move into sales that are not regulated by the FSA.”

Reynolds Porter Chamberlain partner Jonathan Davies says: “It would be surprising if the FSA does not act in similar circumstances with firms of a similar size.”

A Northern Bank spokesman says: “There is a difference of interpretation between the FSA and ourselves over the selling of mortgages. There are discussions to clarify the rules.”

The FSA says it cannot comment on the specific case but says: “There is a certain amount of ambiguity in some cases.”

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