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Why does the FSA fear recording?

The FSA does a field visit on an IFA in whose offices is a prominently displayed sign stating that conversations may be recorded.

The regulator must surely be aware that IFAs hold it and its staff in rather less than the highest regard.

Without specifically informing the FSA field officers, which was probably a little unwise, the IFA records the visit and takes it to the editor of a newspaper who is quite interested in what is on the tape.

If the contents of the tape revealed that the field visit had been conducted in a professional and dispassionately objective manner, it is reasonable to assume that the editor of said newspaper would conclude that there was nothing to be heard which might warrant taking the matter any further. It would be a non-story.

The editor seems to have reached a very different conclusion and decided to publish a transcript of what was said.

If the field visit had been conducted in a professional manner, then the contents of the tape would have been either not worthy of page space or possibly even a ringing endorsement of the quality of the way in which FSA field staff go about their business.

If the latter, the tables might have been turned on the IFA community, concluding that the FSA provides a valuable service in protecting the interests of the public by ensuring that IFAs conduct their business in a professional and accountable manner. The howls of protest from Canary Wharf do rather suggest that the transcript portrays the FSA in a rather less than glowing light.

One is reminded of the current debate over identity cards, to which the response of some law-abiding citizens is simply that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. I would have no concerns over any of my meetings with clients being recorded, covertly or otherwise, and I suspect that most of my IFA colleagues would feel the same way. What fears might the FSA have about any of their staff being recorded in the field? On what grounds might they argue that any parties making recordings could be deemed not to be dealing with the regulator in an open and co-operative way?

As I see it, all the IFA at the heart of this story seems to be saying is that he will deal with the regulator in as open and as co-operative a way as anyone might reasonably wish but that, by the same token, he wanted to ensure that if there were any failings in this regard on the part of the regulator’s field staff, then he would have it properly on record.

Julian StevensWDS IFAs,Bristol

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