UK financial conduct watchdog stung by bullying allegations

07 March 2019 3 min. read
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A freedom of information request has uncovered a drastic rise in the number of bullying allegations being reported by staff in one of the UK’s leading regulatory bodies. The Financial Conduct Authority has seen the number of bullying and harassment complaints lodged balloon from only two between 2009 and 2012 to 30 in the last three years.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is Britain’s non-bank financial markets regulatory authority which oversees the commercial ethics of some of the largest electronic trading firms in the world. The entity has been facing rising criticism in the last two years, having been pilloried by the leading members of the investment consulting market for its “inappropriate” recommendations for the future of the industry, which sources in the consulting world suggested were “based on misconceptions.”

However, it is not the FCA’s official activities which have become a cause for concern in 2019. Rather, it is its internal culture, with the watchdog having been rocked by a sharp rise in the number staff making accusations of bullying and harassment, which have prompted wider questions over the entity’s ability to stamp out misconduct in the City of London. Figures first reported by industry journal the Financial News revealed that FCA employees brought some 14 cases of bullying and harassment against the FCA last year.

UK financial conduct watchdog stung by bullying allegations

According to the report, all the incidents were investigated by the regulator, but only two people were fired and three were subject to disciplinary proceedings. The number of complaints was uncovered by a freedom of information request by Financial News, and represents a huge rise from the four reported incidences seen at the FCA in 2017. Since 2016, the figures showed that there had been a total of 30 such allegations lodged, meaning almost half came in 2018.

In the three years prior to this, meanwhile, just seven incidents were investigated, and beyond that a mere two cases of bullying and harassment were probed between 2009 and 2012. While the story could be a sign of “improved internal reporting”, as suggested by Maria Miller MP, the Chair of the House of Commons Women and Equalities Select Committee, she has now called on the Treasury Select Committee to look into misconduct at the financial regulator.

As the phenomenon of the #MeToo movement has swept the globe, unveiling long backlogs of systemic abuse of employees in many industries, the financial and professional services sectors have been no exception. Late in 2018, it was revealed that the Big Four had been forced to fire a number of Partners in their UK wings related to inappropriate behaviour, while IT professional services firm Web Applications UK was condemned by social commentators and the press for alleged bullying in its recruitment process.