Businesses using company or insolvency laws to mitigate their liabilities have been warned they could face ‘assertive action’. Anything unethical which unfairly benefits Businesses at the expense of their customers could face investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority.
The FCA said it planned to act amid a rise in the number of firms developing proposals, like Scheme of Arrangements, to deal with hefty liabilities to consumers, in particular redress liabilities.
In proposed guidance published today, the FCA said companies seeking to limit their liabilities should provide the best possible outcome for customers, which will include providing the maximum amount of funding possible to meet compensation claims.
It added: ‘Failure to do so could result in the FCA objecting to the firm’s proposals in court. The FCA will also use its regulatory powers, including enforcement actions for misconduct by firms or their senior managers, when appropriate.
‘The FCA has told firms it expects to be informed as soon as a firm is considering a scheme of arrangement or other compromise to manage liability and set out the information it should receive.’
A Scheme of Arrangement is a process used by a company in financial difficulty to reach a bindings agreement with its creditors to pay back all, or part, of its debts over an agreed timeline.
Some firms have requested a ‘letter of non-objection’ from the FCA in relation to their proposal to manage their liabilities.
Today’s guidance consultation confirms that the FCA would be unlikely to ever issue a letter of non-objection.
Following their assessment, the FCA will communicate any concerns to firms, and if necessary the courts, and consider any further regulatory action, it said.
Sarah Pritchard, executive director of Markets at the FCA, said: ‘Under existing company and insolvency law, firms have options to limit their liabilities.
‘When making use of these, they still have a responsibility to treat their customers fairly. We will take action against firms that don’t meet this obligation.
‘The guidance we are consulting on should help firms understand our expectations and ultimately help firms to avoid proposing compromises that are unacceptable to us because they fail to provide the best possible outcome for consumers.’
This consultation is open until 1 March, and the FCA said it welcomes views from all interested parties before its guidance is finalised. It added: ‘Although this is guidance on the circumstances in which the FCA will exercise its existing rules, the FCA welcomes feedback before determining final guidance.’
The above could include FCA regulated Debt Collection Agencies.