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The FCA in the pandemic

Author: Syedur Rahman  6 November 2020

The Financial Conduct Authority has disclosed information about the size of its caseload this year. Syedur Rahman of Rahman Ravelli considers how it is functioning in the pandemic.

The UK Financial Conduct Authority has released statistics showing that it has continued to open investigations in spite of the pandemic. 

A Freedom of Information request by GIR led to the FCA disclosing that it has started 121 cases this year. Of these cases, 76 have been opened since March, when the UK government started introducing restrictive measures due to coronavirus.

This year, the FCA has closed 176 investigations. Of these, 147 have been closed since March. In August, according to figures given to GIR, the agency had 585 cases ongoing: 318 regulatory, 137 criminal, 41 civil and 89 dual track cases.

Like many organisations, the FCA has done the best it can to keep operating in difficult circumstances, and has met with some success. The fact that more cases are being closed than opened at present may be an indicator of operating difficulties. But it could equally be a result of the FCA taking the chance to be more realistic about the size of its caseload.

Last year, when the FCA’s caseload exceeded 500 for the first time, its enforcement director Mark Steward said this was not a concern. What will be more important will be the number of enforcement actions that result from these cases. The last financial year saw it impose 15 financial penalties, compared with 14 the previous year.

With Nikhil Rathi now in post as the FCA Chief Executive, he and his agency face a number of challenges. While continuing to function and obtaining satisfactory outcomes in the current virus-affected times have to be the immediate and most obvious priorities, the FCA will need to address other matters.

While it is unclear if any of the recently-started investigations involve wrongdoing prompted by Covid-19, it is likely the FCA will at some point find itself with a sizeable virus-related caseload. Nikhil Rathi has made clear that supporting the economic recovery while focusing on vulnerable consumers is one of his objectives.

He has also stated his desire to make the FCA a more diverse organisation and one that embraces new technology, while enforcing high standards and putting the UK at the forefront of regulatory discussions. Quite how these aims are affected by coronavirus will become clearer in the future.

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Syedur Rahman is known for his in-depth experience of serious fraud, white-collar crime and serious crime cases, as well as his expertise in worldwide asset tracing and recovery, civil recovery, cryptocurrency and high-stakes commercial disputes.

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