Regulation  

FCA receives 9 complaints about press briefing debacle

The chairman of the FCA has said nine complaints have been received about the regulator’s life insurance press briefing debacle and the unknown complainants are “potentially seeking compensation”.

John Griffith-Jones was speaking after the release of the Davis Review into the regulator’s handling of market-sensitive news.

The investigation was triggered after director of supervision Clive Adamson was quoted in a national newspaper as saying the regulator planned an inquiry into 30m pension and investment policies going back to the 1970s.

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The announcement led to more than £3bn being wiped off the market value of Britain’s biggest insurers in one day.

Mr Griffith-Jones said: “I believe we have received nine complaints but no companies have told the FCA they will sue.

“The legal advice is that no compensation is due.”

But the FCA has refused to reveal whether those complaints come from the insurance industry or from investors.

Simon Davis, a partner in law firm Clifford Chance, concluded the regulator was “well intentioned” but its strategy was “high-risk, poorly supervised and inadequately controlled”.

His report said: “When it went wrong, the FCA’s reaction was seriously inadequate and fell short of the standards expected of those it regulates.”

Mr Griffith-Jones has announced Mr Adamson as well as chief executive Martin Wheatley, director of communications Zitah McMillan and director of markets David Lawson will all forego their bonuses for 2013/14.

Meanwhile the rest of the executive committee will have their bonuses cut by 25 per cent.

The report says Daily Telegraph reporter Dan Hyde had a telephone briefing about the review with FCA director of long-term savings and pensions Nick Poyntz-Wright.

Despite concerns from the team carrying out the review that the timing of the announcement, shortly after the announcement about annuities in the 2014 Budget, the interview went ahead.

Mr Adamson did not know the review was taking place or that Mr Poyntz-Wright’s comments would be attributed to him.

When the interview went ahead Mr Hyde focused on exit fees despite the fact that this was not a focus of the review but neither Mr Poyntz-Wright or the press officer dealing with this told the review team about this.

When the FCA’s media team contacted him about the story which eventually appeared he said it “looked good” despite not having read it.

Mr Adamson and Ms McMillan have already announced they are leaving the regulator as part of an unconnected shake-up of its departments.

Mr Griffith-Jones said: “There is a lot more to Clive Adamson and Zitah McMillan than one week in March.

“Both have done a considerable amount of work in getting the FCA to where it is. They have done a whole lot of good for this organisation and this is clearly an unfortunate story.

“I have got total confidence in Martin Wheatley. We think he has done a very good job.”