July 18, 2014

FCA boss Dennis Wheatley was in a bullishly defiant mood at this week’s annual public meeting in London, banging on about having a “massive agenda” and how he wasn’t going to let a few cavils about insurer share price meltdowns and the like get to him.

Regular readers will be well aware that the new-fangled regulator has copped a sack of flack lately over its careless whispers about insurers possibly being obliged – not merely to treat customers fairly going forwards – but to make amends in cash for a whopping great tranche of former unfairnesses.

If people were expecting the FCA to come over all cowed and retreat into purdah pending the outcome of an ongoing enquiry over its injudicious announcement on legacy policies, they could, Wheato made abundantly clear, forget about it!  “The one thing we cannot do,” he confessed modestly, “is to go into purdah while we wait for it.”

Purdah, as readers will doubtless recall, is not the character played by Gurkha Friend the lovely Joanna Lumley in 70s espionage-based TV action series The New Seekers, but the practice – originated in ancient times by the Babylonians and Persians and still observed in many Middle Eastern and Islamic countries – of keeping women decently apart from men, thereby preventing the latter from any temptation they might feel to assail or corrupt the former’s virtue.

Now quite clearly the idea that anyone – male, female or otherwise – could plausibly assail or corrupt the virtue of a man like Dennis Wheatley is clearly preposterous. It is cheering, however, to have this very public reassurance that he and his minions are not simply going to be keeping their heads down on full pay while they await the full vindication a report on the legacy gaffe currently being carried out by law firm Clifford Chumps will eventually provide.

Wheato’s colleague John Griff-Rhys-Jones chimed with this undaunted note, claiming that the FCA is in “good heart” despite the endless accusations of incompetence and blunderment. FCA staff, he said, were “absolutely masterful” and “carrying on with their jobs as though this has not happened”.

He praised the FCA’s exemplary transparency and integrity in having asked its lawyers to have a look at the whole legacy gate thing almost as soon as it happened. ”If you make a mistake,” he said, (adding quickly, “and I am not saying we did”) “you have to have someone look at it.”

In exactly the same way that entities regulated by the FCA would expect to face a hefty fine and a range of other sanctions following the identification of any irregularities in their conduct, the regulator has been quick to pay the law firm of its choice a couple of hundred thousand to thoroughly investigate its complete innocence of any serious wrongdoing in this matter.

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