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Regulation of the financial services industry in the UK is handled by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), with responsibility for the regulating of 56,000 financial services firms and financial markets across the country.

With a wide-ranging remit, the FCA aims to eradicate financial crime and serious fraud in the corporate sector through a number of regulatory practices. These include the enforcing of UK and EU competition law, enforcement procedures to take action against firms and individuals who fail to follow financial rules, and through its authorisation powers whereby the FCA has responsibility for authorising firms and individuals offering ‘regulated activities’.

If you work in the financial services industry, it is essential that you get the best quality legal advice to ensure full compliance with the FCA’s regulatory framework. Failure to comply with this framework can see individuals or businesses subject to investigating procedures, as the FCA can bring disciplinary proceedings against authorised firms for regulatory breaches. For firms involved in such practices, the FCA has the power to impose fines, withdraw or vary a firm or individual’s authorisation, to issue financial penalties or warnings, supervisory and decision notices. Such investigations can be deeply damaging to you and your business, the prospect of asset restraint and confiscation proceedings having a devastating effect. The regulatory and compliance solicitors at Wilford Smith have the required skills, knowledge and determination to ruthlessly develop a top-level strategy on your behalf, ensuring the best outcome in any investigation. Call us today to see how we can help.

What is the Financial Conduct Authority?

The FCA acts as the main regulator of the financial markets in the UK, with the power to bring criminal and regulatory enforcement proceedings against individuals and institutions when there is evidence of misconduct in the financial services industry. The FCA’s wide-ranging powers are used to investigate businesses or professional individuals in relation to breaches of financial codes of conduct.

What enforcement powers does the Financial Conduct Authority have?

If firms or individuals fail to meet the relevant regulatory standards, the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA) gives the FCA an extensive range of disciplinary, civil and criminal powers to take action. These powers include being able to:

  • Withdraw a firm’s authorisation
  • Prohibit an individual from operating in the financial service industry or undertaking specific regulated activities
  • Suspending a firm from taking part in regulated activities for up to 12 months
  • Suspending an individual from carrying out specific controlled functions for up to two years
  • Make public statements censuring individuals and firm
  • Impose financial penalties
  • Seek injunctions
  • Seek court orders to freeze assets
  • Apply for restitution orders
  • Seek prosecutions against firms and individuals who engage in authorised activities without proper authorisation

How does the Financial Conduct Authority use its powers to enforce financial regulations?

While the FCA has the power to seek prosecutions through the criminal courts for serious offences, or through civil proceedings such as injunctions and restitution proceedings, in many cases it will use its administrative powers under the FSMA to enforce regulatory compliance.

After alerting an individual or firm of an impending investigation by way of a Notice of Appointment, the FCA’s investigators will begin their investigation work. The scope of the FCA’s powers are extensive, going beyond the individuals, organisations and companies that it regulates. The FCA can compel an individual to produce documents and information as part of its investigations, with powers to seek compulsory interviews, to search an individual’s home or business premises and to seize computers and electronic devices. If you are subject to an investigation by the FCA it is essential to get expert legal advice at the earliest opportunity to make sure your interests are best protected. By instructing a specialist solicitor from Wilford Smith’s regulatory and compliance team you will have the support of legal experts with in-depth knowledge of the investigation process, ensuring that interviews are conducted in a fair and proper manner and that you have a full understanding of this process.

Following the investigation work, the FCA will inform the individual or firm of their preliminary findings, and those subject to investigation will then have the opportunity to offer a written response at this stage. This will then be followed by a resolution period in which, if it is decided that sanctions are warranted, the firm or individual will be given the opportunity to resolve the case in full or in part. By reaching agreement with the FCA in respect of the facts, liabilities and penalties, the individual or firm can receive a penalty discount by way of the FCA’s penalty discount scheme for early resolution. Alternatively, those subject to investigation can challenge all or part of the findings before the FCA’s Regulatory Decision Committee.

Decisions made at this stage in the investigation process are hugely important and can have a significant impact on you and your company. You will be in a much stronger position if you are able to call on experienced legal professionals to assist you in the process of reaching a fair resolution, or to offer the most robust defence to the charges made against you should you dispute the FCA’s findings. The regulatory and compliance solicitors at Wilford Smith have the required skills, knowledge and determination to ruthlessly develop a top-level strategy on your behalf, ensuring the best possible outcome for you and your firm.

Why choose Wilford Smith?

Wilford Smith’s team of solicitors are experienced in advising clients in relation to investigations by the Financial Conduct Authority, as well as working with individuals and firms operating in the financial services industry to help avoid FCA enforcement investigations. We take pride in our reputation for unique representation, giving our clients a service that is exceptionally strategic and results driven, and can attract the highest calibre barristers to provide support when necessary.

Contact our FCA Defence Lawyers, UK

Our regulatory and compliance solicitors are based in Sheffield and London and service clients throughout England and Wales. Contact us today on 0808 169 5677 to find out how we can help.


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