The total value of fines handed out by the FCA has dropped by over a third (36%) this year, according to research carried out by global law firm Clyde & Co. The FCA imposed fines amounting to a total of £898m in 2015/16 compared with a record £1.41bn in 2014/15, a 36% decrease. Although, this year’s total is still over double that of 2013/14’s £421m.
Clyde & Co says that the reason for the sharp drop in the value of fines may be because the fallout from major banking scandals is now drawing to an end. 2014/15’s total was bolstered by a number of large fines because of the investigations into whether foreign-exchange and Libor benchmarks were rigged. JP Morgan, Citibank, HSBC, RBS and UBS each received fines of over £200m in 2014/15, for failing to take reasonable care to organise and control their affairs responsibly and effectively with adequate risk management systems in relation to FX voice trading.
Clyde & Co points out that this year there were just two fines against companies, which related to Forex or Libor. The most recent was in May 2015, a £284m record fine for Barclays Bank.
John Whittaker, Partner at Clyde & Co, comments: “The big ticket fines from the recent banking scandals look to have dried up, but other cases may be in the pipeline. This year’s fines are still over double that of two years ago and there are no signs that the FCA is taking its foot off the gas. The record fine handed out to a company this financial year shows that the regulator still has teeth and is not afraid of breaking records in order to punishing businesses that operate outside of the rules.”
According to Clyde & Co, the value of fines against individuals has more than doubled over the last year, whereas the value of fines against companies has dropped by 37%. FCA fines against individuals came to a total of £17m this year, compared to £7m last year, whilst fines against companies dropped to £880m from £1,403m the previous year.
John Whittaker Partner at Clyde & Co said “Although it is difficult to draw firm conclusions from just three years of statistics, it does suggest that the regulator now appears to be turning its focus towards individuals. This is supported by recent regulatory changes which are aimed at holding individuals to account for any behaviour that strays outside of the regulator’s rule book.”
The Senior Managers Regime has placed the onus on managers to take responsibility for their own actions and those of their staff.
Senior managers and key non-executive directors risk fines or bans from the industry unless they can show they took all reasonable steps to prevent wrongdoing within their teams. There is also a parallel criminal offence of recklessly mismanaging a financial institution that fails.
The new rules came into effect in March 2016. They currently apply to banks, building societies credit unions and insurers but are expected to be extended across the entire financial services sector by 2018.
Whittaker said “The Senior Managers Regime has sent shockwaves throughout the financial services industry. In the past senior figures at financial services companies have largely managed to avoid punishment for their own and their team’s actions. That has now all changed. Companies will be hoping that the new rules help to ensure employees play by the book but are not put off from taking calculated risks in order to boost profits.”
The number of fines handed out by the FCA is now evenly split between companies and individuals, 17 each this year. In previous years fines against companies have always outweighed those against individuals.