FSA accused of not exercising fairness in complaint

Complaints commissioner Sir Anthony Holland said the FSA failed to exercise fairness in relation to the Financial Services and Markets Act, in its dealing with the complaint by Thomas Wilhelm Reeh the former chief executive of defunct Staffordshire-based mortgage broker Black and White Group Ltd.

Mr Reeh, along with the firm’s former chairman Christopher Ollerenshaw, had been subject to final notices and enforcement action after allegedly pressuring advisers to sell payment protection insurance without due regard to their suitability.

A fine of £170,000 (reduced to £10,0000) was handed to Mr Reeh, who later migrated to Australia, however, the final notice remained on the FSA website, leading to his employers – a large financial services firm in the country, to dismiss him last year.

The complainant – who had experienced delays in the first stage of his complaint to the FSA, before it was referred to the commissioner, said: “I now find myself unemployed, because of what is published on the internet in the final notice.

“It is completely disproportionate that, for a fine of £10,000 and no prohibition order, I have now lost my job of five years and am, to all intents and purposes, unemployable.

“This is a far greater penalty than issued by the tribunal, particularly in the context of being the sole income earner with a young family.”

However, the FCA’s response to the commissioner stated that it was duty bound to keep the notice online on grounds of consistency.

Although the FCA did apologise for the “unreasonable delay” when the complaint was first lodged and will deduct £500 from the amount owed by the complainant, it will not be removing the final notice.

It added: “We do not accept that it was unfair to publish the final notice in this case nor do we consider that it is appropriate to remove it from our website at this time.

“Enforcement allows the FCA to hold to account those who break the rules and, in doing so, help protect consumers and maintain the integrity of the market.”

The Complaints Commissioner is also investigating a related complaint from Mr Reeh and Mr Ollerenshaw regarding the FSA’s conduct of the enforcement investigation, in particular the “disproportionate” exercise of a search and seizure warrant.

Mr Reeh alleged that the media attention and 21 police officers and investigators which was part of the enforcement had impacted his business “terminally”.

Mr Reeh was unavailable to comment. Mr Ollerenshaw declined to comment due to the ongoing nature of his complaint.