The FCA’s stated purpose is to protect consumers from the harm that can be caused by bad conduct in the financial services industry. Mohamed Dabo looks at how the regulator goes about doing this.

Intro: From bank accounts to mortgages, credit cards, loans, savings, and pensions, virtually every adult in the UK is a consumer of financial services. So, one of the Financial conduct Authority (FCA)’s objectives is to ensure an appropriate degree of protection for all consumers.

“We give higher priority to the protection of consumers as potential victims of fraud than to the protection of firms themselves as potential victims,” the regulator says.

The FCA conducts criminal investigations and prosecutions to further its objectives and to deter future wrongdoing.

“We are committed to treating victims fairly, with dignity and respect. We uphold the standards in the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (Victims’ Code),” the FCA says.

If you’re a potential victim in a criminal case the FCA is investigating, having suffered a loss as a result of the wrongdoing under investigation, what follows explains what you can expect from the FCA.

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Reporting a criminal offence

The FCA only investigates certain types of financial crime. The types of cases that it investigates depends on the nature of the wrongdoing, for example, misconduct in regulated types of financial services.

If you feel that you have suffered a loss as a result of a financial crime, you can contact the FCA.

It will let you know, once it has considered your report, whether it is likely to investigate, or if it would be more appropriate to refer the matter to the police or another agency.

If the FCA become aware of an alleged criminal offence that has resulted in economic loss, it may contact you as a victim to find out if you can give its investigators more information.

If you are contacted by an FCA investigator for this purpose, they will ask you for some personal details, including contact details, so that they can contact you during the investigation.

These details will be held securely, the FCA promises, and in line with the Data Protection Act.

Interviews with the FCA

If you have made a complaint to the FCA and have suffered economic loss, it will speak to you as soon as possible. It is likely that you will be interviewed by telephone.

If the FCA thinks that you have relevant information that may need to be presented to the court, The FCA may interview you again at its offices or at your home.

There are different ways in which the FCA may interview you.

This may be on a voluntary basis, or the FCA may use its compulsory powers to require you to attend an interview (using its powers under the Financial Services and Markets Act (FSMA) 2000).

If you are to be interviewed under the FCA’s compulsory powers, it will send you a formal notification saying so.

The FCA records all interviews, so that it has an accurate account of what has been said.

Giving a witness statement

The FCA may ask you to make a witness statement. This will be taken by an investigator, who will ask you questions and put what you have said into a formal statement.

The FCA investigator will:

  • explain the purpose of the witness statement
  • explain the process of taking a witness statement
  • ensure that you read and understand your draft statement thoroughly, to ensure it accurately reflects what you have said before you sign it
  • explain the implications of signing the witness statement

You will be asked to read your witness statement to make sure you are completely happy with it. If you are, you should sign it with your name.

When you sign a witness statement, you are saying that you agree with what it says and that it is a true account of what you have said about the events in question.

The contents of the statement cannot be changed once it has been signed.

If, later, you want to add more information to the statement or clarify something in it, another witness statement can be taken.

Interpretation and translation

If you need language assistance in interpreting or translating any documents during the interview, or while the FCA takes a witness statement, then please tell the FCA investigator.

They will be able to arrange assistance for you.

Giving evidence in court

If the case is brought to court, you may need to give evidence during a trial. If this is the case, the FCA will give you as much notice as is reasonably possible, so you can plan to attend.

The FCA will let you know the court dates. It asks that you avoid any significant commitments (such as holidays) in and around the time when you are likely to give evidence.

As soon as possible, you should let the FCA know if any commitments arise that clash with this date.

Court dates can change. If the date when you are due to give evidence changes, then the FCA will let you know as soon as possible.

During the court case, you will be assigned an FCA witness liaison officer who will keep you informed about the progress of the case.

To help you prepare to give evidence in a trial the FCA will:

  • explain the process of giving evidence, including the courtroom procedure and layout
  • look to answer any questions you may have

When you are called to court to give evidence you will not be allowed into the courtroom to watch the trial until you have given your evidence.

Once you have given your evidence you may be allowed to stay in court if the judge agrees.

Giving evidence at court can be stressful. If you are a young or vulnerable witness, then the FCA can take measures to help ensure that you give your best evidence.

This may involve the FCA applying to the court for ‘special measures’. This assistance is offered to those that are particularly vulnerable or intimidated when giving their evidence.

For example, you may be entitled to provide your evidence from outside the courtroom via live video link, so that you do not need to see, or be seen, by the defendant(s).

Or you may be provided with screens around the witness box, so that you are unable to see the defendant while you give evidence.

You can ask for special measures if you think it would help you in giving your evidence. The court decides whether these measures can be put in place.

Helping you claim your expenses

If you need to attend court to give evidence, the FCA will send you:

  • a witness expenses form setting out the rates for claiming expenses
  • the application form with detailed rules about claiming expenses

You can claim limited expenses for:

  • travel to and from court
  • accommodation (with our prior agreement)
  • food and non-alcoholic drinks (unless the Witness Service or the court provides free refreshments)

You may sometimes be able to claim limited expenses for:

  • compensation for loss of earnings from attending court
  • related costs such as childcare

The FCA’s witness liaison officer will be happy to explain the procedure and help you fill out the form.

Applying for compensation

You may be able to apply for compensation if you have suffered loss as a result of a crime in which a defendant has been convicted.

If it is appropriate to do so, the FCA will apply to the court for compensation for the victims in a case.

This application takes place at the end of the trial and once a full financial investigation has taken place. This may take some time after conviction to complete.

An application may be made for some, or all, of the loss resulting from the offences of which the defendant is convicted, taking into account the specific facts of the case and all the circumstances.

The final decision on whether to grant compensation lies with the court.

The court also decides on the amount of any compensation. Anything you may receive in compensation depends on a number of factors, including:

  • the defendant satisfying the compensation order
  • whether you have received compensation already

Victims’ right to request a review

Where the FCA has taken on a criminal investigation, victims can seek a review of an its decision not to bring charges or to terminate all proceedings.

Please note that the scheme applies only in relation to qualifying decisions made on or after 16 November 2015.  It does not therefore apply to any complaint of misconduct received by the FCA. It is limited to those cases where the FCA has taken responsibility for pursuing a criminal investigation.