From the Regulators

Fines imposed on high-profile individuals have increased steadily over the past few years

By James Langton |

A new report finds that the UK Financial Services Authority (FSA) significantly increased the fines it levied on individuals in the past year.

The report from NERA Economic Consulting says that the FSA imposed nearly £20 million in fines on individuals in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which is more than in the previous eight years combined. The FSA also imposed £58.7 million in fines on firms, which ranks second to the previous year's record high.

While the value of fines from the FSA was high, the number of fines imposed on both firms and individuals declined year over year, which NERA suggests is, "possibly as a result of the FSA taking on fewer, more complex cases."

"The FSA has continued to increase the level of fines this year. Average fines against individuals and firms were higher than ever, even though only four fines have yet been determined under the revised penalty guidelines; and it has become routine for the FSA to impose multiple fines each year that equal or exceed £5 million," said the report's co-author and NERA vice president, Paul Hinton.

The report notes that fines imposed on high-profile individuals have increased steadily over the past few years, but the number of individuals who were criminally indicted by the FSA fell in 2011-2012 compared to the prior two years.

The mix of fines against individuals also shifted during the year compared to the three previous years, it says, with fewer fines for insider dealing and unsuitable investments & miss-selling, but more fines for failure to prevent misconduct. Conversely, only one fine was levied against a firm for compliance failures, compared to 13 over the prior two years.

Additionally, the report indicates that the size of fines increase, so does the frequency of enforcement actions being contested in the Upper Tribunal. The report notes that the tribunal held five hearings in cases involving contested fines in fiscal 2011-2012, and eight additional cases are pending.

"An increasing number of enforcement actions are being contested in the Upper Tribunal, which is not surprising in light of the record-sized fines the FSA is assessing against individuals. If the FSA continues to ratchet up enforcement activity against individuals, we are likely to see more and more cases referred to the Upper Tribunal," said report co-author, Robert Patton, a senior consultant at NERA.