The number of independent investigations ordered by UK regulators into financial institutions has risen for the first time in four years, driven by concerns around money-laundering and white-collar crime, according to new data.

Regulators demanded 51 skilled persons’ reports in the 2018-19 financial year, a 16 per cent increase on the previous 12 months. The reports, undertaken by the skilled persons panel firms, are ordered when the Financial Conduct Authority or the Bank of England have particular concerns about an element of a financial company’s business.

Skilled persons’ reports, also known as Section 166 reviews, serve as an initial exploratory step and as such are typically kept confidential but can be used by the regulators to launch full enforcement investigations.

Section 166 reports have become an increasingly important weapon in the FCA’s arsenal. When the FCA took over from the Financial Services Authority in 2013 it also gained the power to appoint directly the expert to lead such reports, rather than leaving it up to the companies involved in some cases.

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