‘Libelled’ adviser told he is unable to sue the FCA

A Herefordshire man has been told he cannot take legal action against the FCA for allegedly libelling him and his wife.

Alistair Hinton and his wife Terry claimed they were forced to sell their financial advice company in 2011, as a result of a long-standing and costly battle with the former FSA, which in 2005 claimed that Mr and Mrs Hinton had been employed by a censured firm.

Their company, Hinton Associates, was based in Bath. The censured firm was Berkeley Independent Advisers Limited, based in Coventry. Berkeley’s assets were acquired by Tenet in 2006 and declared in default by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme in 2006 after going into administration in March that year.

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Mr Hinton claimed that neither he nor his wife had ever worked for Berkeley, despite being listed as appointed representatives of the failed firm. This resulted in them losing business.

After writing to the FSA in 2005 to complain, Mr Hinton claimed that the FSA admitted that while the information had been misleading, unclear and unfair, it was “factually and legally correct”, which he has disputed.

He now wants to sue the FCA for libel but has been told it has statutory immunity from liability for damages, regardless of the merits of the case. Mr Hinton said this effectively prevents him from taking the watchdog to court.

The 64-year-old said: “We just cannot do anything about it. The government won’t even give us a reason why they have been given this immunity. People know you can sue the police and the Serious Fraud Office, but not the FCA.”

Under the Financial Services Act 2012, the FCA cannot be sued for libel or damages unless it was acting “in bad faith” or unlawfully, according to the Human Rights Act 1998.

Right to reply

The FCA said it doesn’t comment on individual cases.

The Treasury did not respond when asked to explain why the watchdog had this immunity.