You know your neighbour with that enormous dog, the one that snoozes quietly in the garden most of the time, but you’re warned not to turn your back on him “because he’s a bit unpredictable”? Well, that’s the FSA. They slumber gently in Canary Wharf, putting out occasional updates to their Handbook, which are even more occasionally related to financial crime, and then suddenly SNAP! Their jaws close around the unlucky ankle of some firm or other, which has to drop a particularly large and juicy steak to escape.
The victim this week has been Willis Limited, the UK insurance broker. It has been fined £6,895,000 for “failings in its anti-bribery and corruption systems and controls” – which the FSA trumpets proudly as “the biggest fine imposed by the FSA in relation to financial crime systems and controls to date”. (Is it just me, or is that “to date” a rather chilling aftershock?) As with previous fines in this area, the point is made very clearly that there is no evidence that the failings in question have actually led to financial crime (in this case, bribery), but only that the failings led to an unacceptable level of risk. With the Bribery Act 2010 implemented only a month ago, this is a timely reminder to all FSA-regulated firms that the appropriate anti-financial crime systems and controls must be (i) in place, (ii) communicated to staff, (iii) regularly monitored for application, and (iv) regularly reviewed by the Board for appropriateness and effectiveness.