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Whistleblow system is better late than never

Few could reasonably argue with the FSA setting up a whistleblowing system for the insurance industry to report suspected malprac-tice or criminal behaviour.

Never mind that this is just a wee bit late after nearly 20 years of regulation and a few high-profile collapses such as Equitable Life and Network 300 but maybe better late than never.

Never let it be said that the FSA has any sort of talent for getting to the scene of a crime before it happens (hence the FSA’s endemic culture of regulation by hindsight).

That aside, Simon Mansell, MD of Temple Bar in Worcester, has raised in an open letter to Stephen Bland of the FSA (and others) the following questions which, to my mind, certainly bear scrutiny:

I would like to know if you will give equal consideration to suspected fraudulent compensation claims made by clients against advisers, where the client makes an attempt to obtain (or actually obtains) money (that is, compensation or rectification of previous status) from a financial adviser using statements as though fact, knowing these to be untrue.

You will, of course, understand that with around 100,000 FOS claims each year, this matter is of grave concern to the many advisers in our industry and for them is considered a grave injustice that seemingly goes unnoticed (more like deliberately ignored) by the regulators.

If you do not feel this matter should be the subject of FSA scrutiny, what then are your views on such matters being reportable suspicion under the money-laundering rules? You will know the money-laundering rules state that a suspicion of these facts alone may impose upon the financial adviser the requirement to report the case to the reporting officer and or National Criminal Intelligence Service.

Suspicion can be defined as “a degree of satisfaction not necessarily amounting to belief at least extending beyond speculation as to whether an event has occurred or not”.

Therefore as an adviser, I and my many colleagues need to know if equal weight is given to the investigation of a suspected fraudulent client by the FSA or, if not, then in the opinion of the FSA are we obliged to report such suspicions under the money-laundering rules to an alternative regulator – the National Criminal Intelligence Service? Your clarification on this matter would be appreciated.

Is there the slightest prospect of an affirmative response from Mr Bland? Don’t hold your breath. As David Kenmir is fond of saying: “That’s different.” Isn’t it always?

Incidentally, I have sought Simon Mansell’s permission before sending you this. His response is as follows: I would be happy if you used this content. Stephen Bland has replied but has “prohibited” me from publishing his response.

Nice to know we live in an open society.

Julian Stevens
Partner
Harvest IFM
Bristol

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