FSA to launch first ever investigatory panel

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is to launch its first ever panel of external advisers to carry out investigations at banks.

The FSA is understood to be publishing a preliminary tender questionnaire in coming weeks, which will look to appoint a panel of external advisers to obtain skilled person reports, also known as Section 166 reports, as part of the body’s ongoing risk-based approach to regulation.

The regulator will call in these external advisers when a financial company enters into difficulty and will use the reports to assess the most appropriate action to take, such as imposing a fine or implementing some other kind of enforcement action.

Judging by investigations conducted so far, fees for appointed firms could range from around £2,000 up to £4.4m. This means that although the Big Four have typically been brought in to advise on very large scale issues in the past, there are still plenty of opportunities for other firms to advise on investigations, particularly at the lower range, an FSA spokesperson said.

Exact details of the panel and of any sub-panel specialisms are as yet unclear, but it is understood that the regulator will launch an open tender for both law firms and accountancy firms to vie for spots on the panel for a four-year term. It is envisaged that the panel will be in place by spring next year.

It is also unknown at this stage who will be leading the tender process, but the FSA confirmed that Tracey McDermott, the regulator’s director of enforcement and financial crime since August this year (10 August 2012), will not be involved.

“Section 166 is not an enforcement tool, it’s a tool used by supervisors for investigations and is completely separate to enforcement, therefore it’s important to highlight that this division of of the FSA will not be involved in the tender process,” a spokesperson confirmed.