Finance watchdog trebles fines after 31% jump in fraud cases

The UK’s finance watchdog has said it trebled the size of fines it dished out in the past year, on the back of an increase in fraud cases.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued £227.3 million in financial penalties in the year to March, up from £69.9 million last year.

The FCA said its total number of enforcement cases jumped 31% to 650 for the year, including a significant rise in cases affecting retail investors.

Misconduct in retail financial services jumped 29% to 101 over the 12-month period, after a number of high-profile cases including the collapse of London Capital & Finance.

The regulator also said it has had to transform its response to fraud to keep pace with criminals who use fast-changing technology to scam customers.

It said criminal activity has become “increasingly sophisticated”, which saw the regulator issue 521 warnings about unauthorised firms, up from 328 the previous year.

Andrew Bailey, chief executive of the FCA, said: “Over the last year, we’ve made a range of important interventions which have brought real benefits to consumers.

“As we reflect on the last year and what we’ve achieved, we are also mindful of the rapidly evolving landscape.”

Charles Randell, chairman of the FCA, said: “The annual report displays the breadth of our work in the past year, from helping consumers act on PPI, to taking tough enforcement action where rules are broken, strengthening firms’ operational resilience and promoting global financial innovation.

“Along the way we have made decisions on over 4,000 applications for authorisation, assessed over 1,750 whistleblowing allegations and launched 484 preliminary market abuse investigations.”

The FCA handed Mr Bailey a £592,000 pay packet for the year, up from £589,000 a year earlier, according to the report.

He received a £68,000 performance bonus for the year, but the organisation said he could lose his bonus for 2020 depending on the outcome of a review into the FCA’s dealings with collapsed bond provider London Capital & Finance.

The FCA’s annual report also revealed that the organisation had a median gender pay gap of 20.6% for the year, and a median ethnicity pay gap of 28.7%.