And so we come to the end of the first week of business for the UK’s new Financial Conduct Authority. RIP FSA, and long live (at least until the next government comes along) the FCA and the Prudential Regulation Authority. The man at the helm of the FCA is Martin Wheatley, fresh off the boat from Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission, and I am relieved to see Tracey McDermott moving over from the FSA’s Enforcement and Financial Crime Division. For Miss McDermott was one of very few things about the FSA that I liked.
What it comes down to is this. I am tired of having to apologise for the FSA – and by extension, for the UK’s AML regime and its enforcement – whenever I speak to people in other jurisdictions. Why, they ask with much justification, was no-one ever prosecuted over the Abacha money? Why have so few UK financial professionals served time for money laundering – and certainly no-one senior? How dare the UK claim to adhere to high AML standards (and criticise others for apparently failing to do so) when its own regulator is a toothless tiger? And I have no good answers for them, because the sad truth is that I have been disappointed by the FSA, over and over again. But because I am an optimistic little soul – and because I cannot bear the thought that it might not be so – I am prepared to believe that the FCA will be different, and that it will both bare and use its regulatory teeth, sinking them with relish into money launderers. Although I may come to regret my wish: that wise fellow Chairman Mao warned, “When you wake a tiger, use a long stick.”