Fears are mounting that the Financial Conduct Authority will be less accountable than the FSA, with a weaker independent appeals process limited to a narrower range of cases.
Currently the FSA’s appeals process is made up of two stages: the regulatory decisions committee and the Upper Tribunal. The Tribunal has the power to enforce a new binding decision on the regulator for enforcement, supervision and approval cases.
But under the Financial Services bill, if a case involves a firm or individual who is being banned, is subject to a supervision notice or is refused regulatory approval, the Tribunal can only refer the decision back to the regulator and guide it to reconsider where there has been an error of fact or law. The Tribunal will still be able to issue a binding decision for cases involving fines or censures.
Association of Professional Financial Advisers deputy chairman Gary Bottriell, also a member of the RDC, says: “The Tribunal’s powers are being severely watered down. When a body that has lots of power is given more comfort that its decisions have got greater immunity from interference by a higher judicial authority, standards begin to slip and corners get cut.”
Bottriell also warns the bill’s wording opens the door for the RDC’s independence to be compromised in future.
FSA director of conduct policy Sheila Nicoll says: “It does not feel from the FCA perspective as if we are going to be any less accountable.”
Essential IFA managing director Peter Herd says: “We cannot have a strong regulator without strong oversight and accountability.”