Law Soc committee slams Govt consultation on FSA

THE LAW SOCIETY'S company law committee has attacked the Government for the “piecemeal” way it has handled the consultation exercise on the rules for the new super-watchdog, the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

The committee criticises the different approaches to consultation between the Treasury and the FSA, which “make it difficult to comment on consultation papers on a properly informed basis”.

The report also complains of only having “tantalising glimpses” of what the Government intends the legislation to provide in relation to rule-making power.

According to committee chair Tim Herrington, a corporate partner at Clifford Chance, the public are being asked to comment on the design of the FSA's new handbook of guidance and rules without seeing the draft legislation setting out the FSA's statutory powers (expected in the summer).

Herrington told The Lawyer that the Government has probably told the FSA what the draft legislation will be on issues such as the civil sanctions and enforcement mechanisms available to the FSA. “But as members of the public we don't know,” he said.

Herrington said that the committee also felt “very strongly” that proposals in the paper to remove the distinction between “principles” and “rules” would be “really unjust” and put investment companies at risk of litigation from third parties, not just disciplinary action by the regulator.

“Legal uncertainties will inevitably be created,” he said.