Articles - FSA publishes discussion paper on transparency

 The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published a discussion paper looking at how transparency and more effective disclosure could improve the accountability of the regulator and the financial services industry, and help consumers make more informed decisions.

 The incoming Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is committed to being a transparent regulator and to being open to scrutiny from consumers, firms and Parliament. As part of this, it is keen to gather views and ideas from interested parties about information which, if disclosed, would be helpful for firms and consumers.

 The discussion paper suggests ideas, which have been produced in consultation with trade bodies, consumer groups and the independent Panels, for more effective disclosure of information in the future, from both the FCA and from firms. The ideas put forward aim to help consumers make better informed choices, influence firm behaviour and enable external stakeholders to hold the FCA to account.

 These ideas have been grouped into three areas. These are: information that the FCA could release about its own operations; information that the FCA could release about firms, individuals and markets; and information that the FCA could require firms to publish.

 Ideas to increase the transparency of the work that the FCA will undertake include:

 ♦ Giving more detail to whistle-blowers about the action that has been taken after they have contacted the FCA
 ♦ Publishing data in an aggregate form about the number of whistleblowing incidents and any action taken with the information that has been received
 ♦ Expanding the amount of information that is published in the enforcement annual performance account, which could include average length and cost of investigations
 ♦ Publishing aggregated information about supervisory activity, which could include the number of planned and unplanned supervisory visits that have taken place across different sectors

 The FCA could release information about firms, individuals and markets in more detail, or earlier, to explain areas of concern or highlight particular issues. This could include:

 ♦ Publishing aggregated information about authorisations, including broad reasons why applications are refused or withdrawn
 ♦ Disclosing more details about redress schemes
 ♦ Publishing the amount of redress paid by firms
 ♦ Improving the content, clarity and accessibility of information published about thematic work and saying more about the findings

 Finally, the FCA could require firms to publish information. Ideas in this area include

 ♦ Improving transparency in the annuity market to make it easier for consumers to compare products and get the best deal
 ♦ Publishing claims data on insurance products to help consumers understand the value of particular insurance products
 ♦ Providing more context around published complaints data to improve understanding of what the data shows

 Martin Wheatley, CEO designate of the FCA, said:

 “Transparency cannot be an end in itself. We want to make sure that disclosure helps customers make the right decisions when purchasing products and helps the market function more efficiently. We are open to hearing from all interested parties about their views on this paper and their ideas about how the FCA and firms could be more transparent.

 “This is not a one-off exercise. As the FCA develops, we will continue to identify additional ways to increase transparency and will be open to feedback from our stakeholders about how this can be achieved.”

 In addition to the ideas raised in the discussion paper, the FSA has already started work, which will be taken forward by the FCA, on the new accountability measures required under the Financial Services Act 2012, in particular:

 ♦ Developing a value for money strategy to ensure that the FCA is making the most efficient use of its resources, including publication of more information about direct expenditure, such as IT, and indirect expenditure, such as s166 reports
 ♦ Developing a statement of policy on regulatory failure, which will be published by the FCA, to give more detail about the conditions under which an investigation into regulatory failure would take place 

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