FSA apologises for ‘bullying’ TCF assessors

An official complaint against the FSA was upheld following the conduct of two treating customers fairly (TCF) assessors during a recent supervisory visit.

An official complaint against the FSA was upheld following the conduct of two treating customers fairly (TCF) assessors during a supervisory visit. This led to an announcement that an apology is due to be issued to the compliance officer of the un-named firm.

Complaints Commissioner Sir Anthony Holland reprimanded the regulator’s staff for allowing their relationship with the officer in question to “deteriorate” during the visit in September last year.

In reference to a previous TCF assessment – on which the firm and the FSA had disagreed – Holland said that he believed the officers had not, however should have, carried out the visit with a “more-than-usual degree of sensitivity”.

On that occasion, the firm said that the TCF officer had initially decided that the firm had passed the assessment, but later changed her mind saying it had failed.

In correspondence to the regulator following the September visit, the complainant alleged the FSA staff engaged in “bullying behaviour” and communicated “incorrect statements” to the officer related to the scope of the assessment.

Holland has openly criticised the regulator, although mentioned that he was relying to a large degree on hearsay as there has been no official investigation into the conduct of the FSA officers.

The Complaints Commissioner writes: “Unfortunately I was not present at the TCF assessment, so on the face of it, it is difficult for me to comment directly upon what was said by whom and more importantly the manner in which the comments were made by both the complainant and the FSA assessors.

“Having said this, it is clear that a situation was allowed to develop whereby the relationship between you (the complainant), the FSA assessors and the firm being assessed, deteriorated to an unacceptable level.”

“FSA staff should do their utmost, however difficult that may be , and I realise that sometimes that may be very difficult indeed, to ensure positively that supervision visits are conducted in a professional manner and that relationships are not allowed to deteriorate.”

In its response, the FSA said: “We welcome the fact that the Commissioner has limited the scope of his investigation to the manner in which the visit was conducted.

“We note that the Commissioner has upheld the complaint on this limited basis. The Commissioner has not made any recommendations to the FSA, nor has he suggested that the FSA take any remedial action.

“However, the FSA will be writing to the complainant to offer an apology for the way in which the Commissioner has found that the visit was conducted.”

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