TONY HETHERINGTON: Why did FCA give blessing to Town & Country Law

No comment: FCA boss Nikhil Rathi

The Mail on Sunday’s revelations about Town & Country Law Ltd raise serious questions for the Financial Conduct Authority. Applicants to the watchdog have to supply details of any convictions, and the FCA has access to criminal records so its investigators can carry out checks. 

The FCA, which has a staff of about 4,000, even has an intelligence department that harvests information that the watchdog’s bosses should know about offenders or suspicious transactions. 

So, was the FCA aware of James Scotney’s convictions? If not, why not? And how could it tell complainants to contact Robynne Casswell if, as suggested, she is no longer at the firm and is awaiting trial? More fundamentally, was the FCA even aware before today of the charges facing those linked to Town & Country Law? 

On May 11, I contacted the watchdog and offered all the details published today, and more about the individuals awaiting trial and what they are alleged to have done, and I asked whether the FCA would comment. 

I was told someone would contact me ‘so they can assist’. Nobody did. On May 18, I prodded the slumbering regulator, and offered all the details to the FCA’s chief executive, Nikhil Rathi. He did not reply. I also offered all the information I had to the FCA’s director of intelligence, Jessica Rusu. She did not reply. 

Instead, a manager at the FCA’s press office asked me to hand over all my findings to her, and she would then decide ‘whether we can provide you with a comment’.

In short, please do our job for us and then we’ll bring down the shutters by refusing to comment, just as we have done before. 

A few days ago, the FCA changed tack and decided to blame this newspaper for its own failings. It issued a statement saying: ‘The Mail on Sunday did not share with us any of the facts of the case, despite us asking. We will therefore have to consider the details of the case once it is in print.’ Well, here are the details in print, so watch this space next Sunday for the FCA’s answers. 

The regulator has failed in so many of its consumer protection tasks that it has cost ordinary savers and investors millions of pounds through its negligence. When The Mail on Sunday names offenders, the FCA fails to act. On Tuesday there was even a protest march in London, organised by the Transparency Task Force, which describes the regulator as ‘morally bankrupt’. 

I would go further. Stealing lines from John Cleese’s dead parrot sketch, I suggest that as far as ordinary consumers are concerned, this watchdog is no more. It has ceased to be. It’s a stiff. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. 

Looking over the FCA’s shoulder is – supposedly – the Treasury Select Committee. Time for it to declare this zombie organisation dead and replace it with one that actually does the job.