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FCA execs’ bonuses cut as life insurance briefing criticized

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(Bloomberg) — U.K. Financial Conduct Authority Chief Executive Officer Martin Wheatley and three other top managers were stripped of their bonuses after a report criticized the regulator’s handling of a press briefing that sent insurance shares tumbling.

Wheatley, Clive Adamson, director of supervision, David Lawton, head of markets, communications director Zitah McMillan and director of long-term savings and pensions Nick Poyntz- Wright were faulted for employing a strategy that was “high risk, poorly supervised and inadequately controlled,” according to the report published today by Simon Davis, a lawyer at Clifford Chance LLP, who was hired to investigate the affair.

The FCA came under fire from officials including Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne for briefing the Daily Telegraph in March on plans to review sales of life insurance policies dating to the 1970s. The ensuing article wiped as much as $4.2 billion from the market value of insurers’ as the industry had to wait hours after the article was published for a statement from the FCA clarifying details of the review.

“The board fully accepts Mr. Davis’ criticisms and on behalf of the FCA we apologize for the mistakes that were made,” FCA Chairman John Griffith-Jones said in a statement. “We accept all of his recommendations, and I can confirm that we are now implementing them.”

Wheatley, Adamson, Lawton and McMillan will not receive any bonus for 2013-14, according to the FCA. Wheatley could have received a maximum bonus of 115,000 pounds ($180,000). The other five members of the executive committee have also taken a 25 percent cut to bonus payments in light of criticisms against the committee as a whole.

The FCA said earlier in the week that Adamson and McMillan will step down amid a wider restructuring of the the regulator that had been initiated 13 months ago. Both are members of the FCA’s nine-strong executive committee.

Insurance executives told Davis during the investigation that a “false or disorderly market” was created on the March 28. Davis said today a “false market” had been created and that it was possible that a disorderly market’’ also existed.

The law firm defines a false market as one in which investment decisions are affected by rumors or based on false or misleading information. A disorderly market is one in which some but not all market participants have access to any information that can affect share prices.

Griffith-Jones said today he doesn’t expect the regulator will have to pay compensation for the affair.

Davis’s recommendations for changes to communications policies at the regulator include a requirement for some pre- approval of quotes and possibly prior approval of articles in some instances.

–With assistance from Sarah Jones in London.


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