U.K. Markets Regulator Targets Fewer Cases With Bigger Fines

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The number of fines levied by the U.K. markets regulator has almost halved in five years as the agency imposed larger sanctions on fewer targets, according to data in its annual report.

The Financial Conduct Authority issued 43 fines in the year through March 2015, compared with 83 in 2010-2011, the report published Thursday shows. Yet annual penalties have grown to 1.4 billion pounds ($2.2 billion) last year from 98.5 million pounds in 2010-2011.

The FCA issued its largest-ever group of fines against five banks in November for attempted manipulation in the foreign-exchange market. The 1.1 billion pounds of sanctions in the case, known as Operation Dovercourt, marked a clear move toward more U.S.-style fines that have traditionally been much higher than in the U.K. The large sanctions are part of an attempt to force firms to change institutional cultures of greed and wrongdoing that have emerged post-crisis.

“I welcome that every CEO and chairman I meet sees conduct as a central pillar of how their business must operate and, by extension, how they can regain the trust of the British people,” FCA Chief Executive Officer Martin Wheatley said in the report. “This is unquestionably a good thing for consumers but also for firms.”

Possible insider trading ahead of deals fell to 13.9 percent in the last 12 months, down from 30 percent in 2010-2011. The number of whistle-blower calls rose nearly 30 percent to 1,340 from 1,040, and the FCA received 1,047 requests for help from overseas counterparts up from 1,022.

The report also shows the number of individuals prohibited by the FCA from working in the industry stagnated at 26 -- the same number as the previous year. That’s down from a five-year high of 71 in 2010-2011.

The number of cases closed in 2014-2015 increased marginally to 177 from 170 in the previous 12 months. Out of those cases, 139 involved enforcement action, nine involved private warnings, and 38 were closed with no further action taken.

The FCA took over regulation for the consumer credit market in April 2014, adding 50,000 firms to its roster. The agency now supervises 73,000 institutions.

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