Campaigner Gina Miller is asking for an Independent Review of the Appointment of the
Next Governor of the Bank of England and the FCA in the Face of a Catalogue of
Regulatory Failures Leading to Catastrophic Consumer Detriment
The True and Fair’s new campaign kicked off yesterday morning with the publication of a report detailing 13 instances where it claimed the FCA had been “asleep at the wheel”.
Its value is in brining together the legitimate grievances of groups as diverse as the victims of BSPS Factory Gating ,LCF bondholders , Woodford investors and the SMEs mistreated by RBS.
This is the first time I have seen such a comprehensive criticism of the FCA’s recent behaviour and the report should be taken seriously by the Treasury Select Committee which has power over the FCA and its appointments.
The question the report is posing is whether Andrew Bailey and by extension his successor Chris Woollard have shown they are fit and proper for their jobs. Andrew Bailey will next week begin his work as Governor of the Bank and will on 16th March formally become Governor of the Bank of England. The question is therefore academic and I don’t see much point in campaigning to review the appointment of Andrew Bailey at this late stage. Nor do I see a lot of point in going after Chris Woollard for that matter.
But I do think that the report can and will have immediate value in focussing the scrutiny of the FCA by Government – in particular the Treasury Select Committee (which has yet to reform this Government and through the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on fair business banking . Kevin Hollinrake MP who Co-Chairs the group was at yesterday’s meeting as were other key people to the APPG. Support for the campaign was received from Vince Cable and John McDonnell.
Changing culture is harder than changing people
People come and go, but culture’s persist and the concern expressed by the report and reinforced at the meeting is that the culture at the FCA is not a good one. From high absenteeism to slovenly housekeeping , the indicators of the FCA’s staff morale point in the wrong direction.
The succession of scandals that it has presided over since the financial crisis include• failures to
- Investigate a complaint by a whistle-blower against the failed HBOS Group;
- Publish its own independent investigators’ report into the abusive treatment of RBS
- Respond to a whistle-blower’s warnings about London Capital & Finance which
collapsed leaving 11,600 retail customers with losses of up to £236 million;
- Regulate properly peer-to-peer Lendy which collapsed, costing 9,000 investors up to £90 million;
- Regulate properly illiquid funds culminating in the recent suspension of the £2.5
billion M&G Property Fund or warn consumers of the risks in a timely way;
- and regulate the investment industry properly, leading to the Woodford scandal in
which 300,000 investors lost over £1 billion.
The consequences of these failures, as was made very clear at yesterday’s meeting, are the wreck of people’s lives.
In case you think that this is a historic problem, think again
Tomorrow, the House of Commons will be filled with the voices of steelworkers from South Wales and the North East of England demanding action over the damage done to their pensions by FCA regulated advisers.
Martin Lewis devoted a program earlier this week showing how scammers can bypass advertising standards by delivering fake financial promotions advertising what appear to be MSE endorsed products (often claiming to be regulated by the FCA).
It is only because of the work of people in the private sector (notably Al Rush) that the steelworkers have been given a voice. It has been Facebook and not the FCA that has been called to account over the scams it publishes. It was pointed out at the meeting that the FCA’s financial promotions rules mean that – should they not be enforced_ consumers are left with no redress (the advertising standards board having no power over regulated promotions).
My support for True and Fair and the Asleep at the Wheel Campaign.
My support for the campaign is because I want the FCA (and the Bank of England) to do better. Simply changing Andrew Bailey and Chris Woollard for better favoured candidates will not solve the cultural problems.
What the campaign will do, and I urge you to download and read the Asleep at the Wheel report, is show that change needs to happen.
That change can only happen when ordinary people decide to make it happen and that is what Al Rush and the steelworkers are doing on Thursday.
It’s what Gina and Alan Miller are doing by calling on the financial services industry to demand better of its regulators.
The catalogue of regulatory woes , detailed by the Millers, is enough to demand change and for that change to come from within.
Thank you Henry for your support and excellent summary.
As you say there is a cultural issue within the FCA. Instead of learning from mistakes, they shoot the messenger. Yesterday, their comment in the press was that “our report contained numerous inaccuracies” and that “we hold firms to account and where we find failures we take action, with the FCA fining firms nearly £5bn since 2013”.
The FCA does not seem to have looked at its our website (https://www.fca.org.uk/news/news-stories/2020-fines) or been capable of adding up as the FCA’s own data shows the following:
– under the 4 years of Andrew Bailey (2016-2020), FCA fines amounted to £707,367,448
– in the previous 3 years pre Bailey (2013-2015), FCA fines amounted to £2,850,914,616.
Therefore the FCA £5Bn figure is wrong for 2013 onwards, its actually £3.6Bn and the part under the tenure of Mr Bailey was just £707m i.e. just 20% of the total.
It is ironic that firms are meant to communicate in a way that is “clear, fair and not misleading”.
Maybe the FCA could follow their own principle.
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One of the FCA’s strategic objectives is to “ensure that the relevant markets function well”. What it likes to do is to use this objective as an excuse to hold back on enforcement actions. Should Jes Staley have been allowed to continue as Barclays CEO after demonstrating a lack of integrity? Well, if the FCA made Barclays sack him, it could damage the Barclays shape price, then that of other banks, and there might be a run in a bank and, well… So they fine him and allow him to stay on having learned his lesson (as if he didn’t know he was doing anything wrong instructing his IT department to identify an anonymous whistleblower).
This attitude started under Martin Wheatley but Andrew Bailey has taken it to a whole new level. Bailey should absolutely not become BofE governor. But we should also be worried about the FCA. Bailey has surrounded himself with yes men who pass his apathy down through the organisation. People who support the apathetic approach get rewarded for it. Those that know wrongdoing when they see it are labelled troublemakers and either move on or get pushed out. Replacing Bailey with an internal candidate would be a terrible mistake. A far better plan would be to come up with a shortlist of candidates from all those people that have left the FCA because they were sick of working for such a spineless regulator.