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FSA’s Cole to Leave Agency After Leading Insider-Trade Crackdown

Margaret Cole, a managing director at the U.K.’s finance regulator who led its clampdown on market abuse, is leaving the agency after seven years.

Cole will continue working at the Financial Services Authority until the end of March and then will be on so-called gardening leave until September, the agency said today in a statement. Under Cole’s stewardship, the FSA fined banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co., UBS AG and Barclays Plc for financial rule breaches and levied its largest individual penalty ever.

The FSA, which was set up in 1997, prosecuted its first criminal case of insider trading in 2008. The regulator introduced a “credible deterrence” strategy for stricter enforcement against financial crime after it was criticized for failing to prevent the U.K.’s worst financial crisis since the World War II.

The agency is to be abolished in 2013 and replaced by at least two new authorities as part of an overhaul of financial supervision. Cole, who was also a board member, was a candidate to lead the FSA’s successor, the Financial Conduct Authority. The U.K. Treasury instead chose Martin Wheatley, then chief executive of Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission.

While director of enforcement at the FSA, Cole led a division of 450 people with oversight of intelligence gathering, forensic investigations, and civil and criminal cases over financial crime. Prior to joining the regulator in July 2005, Cole worked as a litigator at the law firms Stephenson Harwood and White & Case LLP.

“Prior to Margaret Cole joining the FSA, it was rare for criminal actions on insider dealing to be brought by the regulator,” Tim Dolan, a regulation lawyer at Pinsent Masons, said in an e-mail. She “has been instrumental in encouraging FSA Enforcement staff to take a tougher approach. In particular, she has encouraged, where at all possible, pursuing criminal actions against individuals.”

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