While Parliament members continue to struggle to replace a severely ineffective whistleblower protection law, the UK’s financial regulator is charging ahead with its own program.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) received 2,754 reports of alleged misconduct for the year ending March 31, according to the agency’s annual report. Filed by 1,046 people, the complaints mainly involved fraud, compliance, systems and controls, unfair customer treatment, fitness and propriety, organizational culture, data security, capital adequacy, pressure selling and unauthorized business. This is the second consecutive year that about 1,100 people alerted the FCA about potential wrongdoing.
Citizens made a huge contribution to public integrity, as the FCA said their reports led to:
- 15 “significant” actions to mitigate harm, including enforcement or an official view of a company’s activities,
- 135 other mitigation actions, including writing to or visiting a company, or requesting information,
- 145 cases that informed FCA’s work and helped prevent harm, and
- 654 cases still under investigation.
One-third of the reports (894) officially qualified as whistleblowing under the UK’s Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA). However, because the UK has no public agency that tracks or intervenes in whistleblower cases, there’s no way of knowing whether any of the 1,046 people who contacted the FCA were retaliated against and are in need of protection or compensation. Passed in 1998 and roundly criticized, PIDA is the world’s oldest whistleblower law that has never been improved or replaced. Various reform proposals in Parliament over the past decade have gone nowhere.
Meanwhile, the FCA is praising the role of citizens in helping the agency expose and punish financial crimes. “Whistleblowing reports are a vital source of our information,” FCA’s whistleblower website says. “They give us unique insight into the sectors and firms we regulate, helping us to do our job and protect consumers. We assess every report we receive and use them to take action.”
A new FCA campaign, “In Confidence, With Confidence,” encourages people working in financial service sector to report violation. Confidentiality is maintained with the help of a digital toolkit. “We want to improve the process for the whistleblowers who contact us,” the FCA says, “and clear communication plays an important part in this.”
Overall, the FCA reported a major increase in cases of authorized business during the past year. As part of its crackdown, the agency:
- imposed £189.8 million in penalties,
- issued 1,292 consumer alerts, an 80 percent increase over 2019-20,
- opened 1,293 inquiries, with 184 people and companies under investigation, and
- prosecuted cases of insider dealing, investment fraud and money laundering, including the first prosecution under new Money Laundering Regulations that took effect in January 2020.
“We will…redouble our efforts to tackle bad actors, focusing on scams and other financial crimes in the areas we regulate,” FCA Chair Charles Randell said in the annual report. “These are essential foundations for a world-leading financial sector which serves the interests of our society.”