The FSA: regulator or protection racket?

Right, now that the formalities are out the way, we can get down to business. What's been on my mind? Well that's not really important and anyway, it might scare you so I'll keep that to myself for the time being.

What really matters is what has been taxing you brokers out there. The big one is obviously the FSCS levies. It's been going on so long and we have covered it so much that I'm getting a bit of levy fatigue. But the good news is that the FSA has started giving rebates. A couple of brokers I know of have resubmitted their figures and got their money back. Bob's your uncle.

When I contacted the FSA asking them to confirm whether or not brokers could do this, I was struck by two things. Firstly, they actually gave me some comment. Take it from me, for the FSA to give a journalist comment, a hint of an opinion about something, anything, is rare indeed. I thought I'd see Michael Bright back in an insurer boardroom before that happened.

But comment they did and fair play to them. They confirmed brokers could in fact re-submit their figures relating to the levy. However, there was a bit of a catch which was the second thing that struck me.

They made it clear that although they would accept brokers re-submitting their figures, in turn they would want to know why the figures were wrong in the first place - "Brokers are expected to submit accurate figures as per section blah blah blah of the rulebook ..."

The less than subtle hint was that although brokers were permitted, and entitled, to revise their figures, they would be made to pay. The distinct impression I got was that the FSA was terrified of being deluged with requests for refunds. But the threatening undertone was, I felt, unnecessary and I started to wonder whether this is the kind of thing you guys put up with all the time.

Do the FSA often resort to this tone of subtle threat? Is this how they operate in general? Maybe I'm being unfair but the tone surprised me. "Yes you are entitled to re-submit your figures but you'd better think twice before doing it. We could make things very, very difficult for you if you do" was the implication.

Sounds a bit like a protections racket to me.

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