FCA wins legal fight with ex-WH Ireland director

FCA wins legal fight with ex-WH Ireland director

The former compliance director of WH Ireland has lost his attempt to fight the Financial Conduct Authority over allegedly damaging comments, because he filed his challenge 13 months too late.

However, the Judge taking the case said he had “considerable sympathy” for Stephen John Cooper, who was fighting a personal warning sent to him by the FCA at the same time.

Mr Cooper was appealing a Final Notice from the FCA which fined WH Ireland £1.2m for failing to act against potential market abuse. Mr Cooper said that the notice contained references that could identify him as personally responsible and could harm his career.

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As well as the Final Notice, Mr Cooper himself was also issued with a Private Warning by the FCA, expressing conerns that he ““may” have acted without due skill, care and diligence in carrying out his functions in relation to WHI’s market abuse controls and the provision of inadequate management information.”

The Private Notice was eventually withdrawn after Mr Cooper’s lawyer argued that its phrasing suggested that Cooper had breached FCA regulation.

Mr Cooper blamed the delay in filing his complaint about the Final Notice on the fact that he was also fighting against the Private Warning.

Judge Herrington, who was considering the case, said that he had “considerable sympathy” with Mr Cooper “as regards the private warning issue”.

He added: “Those who work in his sector of the industry may continue to regard Mr Cooper as having some responsibility for the failings identified in the Final Notice, failings which he hotly disputes and which he has not had the opportunity to contest either through the Authority’s administrative decision-making process or this Tribunal.”

However, he added that, even if he had received the complaint in time, he would have ruled against Mr Cooper, because he did not believe that the comments on the Final Notice singled him out as an individual.

“There has been no finding by the Authority that Mr Cooper has been personally culpable in relation to the failings which it found in respect of WHI in the Final Notice,” he said.

The WH Ireland fine came after a catalogue of weak controls were found at the firm.

The compliance team did not realise that the firm offered a particular direct-market service to its clients and it had an ineffective information-sharing barrier, known as a “Chinese wall”, between the public-facing and private sides of its business.