It’s not unusual to get freedom of information requests knocked back by the regulator under FoI cost of compliance rules.
Public and regulatory bodies are able to reject FoI’s that would cost over £450 (18 hours work at £25 per hour) and communications staff are often quick to pounce on anything but the most tightly written FoI to try and escalate the potential costs above the limit.
However, we were very surprised to have a recent pretty simple FoI request made by our regulation reporter Natalie Holt rejected by the Financial Conduct Authority on this basis.
She asked for the number of whistleblowing reports made to the FSA in both the 2011/12 and 2012/13 financial years and also the number of whistleblowing reports in 2012/13 that resulted in enforcement action.
The request was made after FCA chief executive Martin Wheatley made a big deal about the use of whistleblowing at a Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards hearing earlier this year. He went as far as floating the idea of offering large cash incentives to encourage more people to report foul play to the regulator.
The remarks followed an FSA pledge last August that the new FCA would place much more emphasis on this type of market intelligence.
The first part of the question could be dealt with easily enough (3,600 and 4,063 respectively) but the other part of the question could not be answered without breaching the FoI cost limit as the regulator has no internal processes in place to track the results of whistleblowing reports it has received. The only help it could provide was that 15 per cent of reports are passed on to various departments for investigation (before disappearing into an information black hole).
When asked for an explanation an FCA spokesman said it was “in the process of updating our systems”, which will hopefully include a simple way of measuring the results of future activity.
But it seems incredible that the regulator can promote a regulatory tool so publicly without having any management information in place to gauge how effective it has been.
Paul McMillan is group editor at Money Marketing- follow him on twitter here