UK: FSA Starting to “Frighten” People?

Is it possible we have reached the “tipping point” in the UK with respect to people respecting the FSA and its enforcement of insider trading?  Less than three weeks ago, the FSA’s chief executive, Hector Sants, engaged in some saber-rattling when he stated that “there is a view that people are not frightened of the FSA.  I can assure you this is a view I am determined to correct. People should be very frightened of the FSA.”  From what we were able to gather from the UK press, the reaction to this in the UK was a muffled snicker and some eye-rolling.

Three weeks later, however, things seem different.  The FSA’s first-ever criminal prosecution on March 27 for insider dealing was followed by the high-profile arrest on March 31 of two people, including a “senior corporate finance adviser,” as part of a different investigation into insider dealing.  The March 31 arrest was part of an FSA “swoop” in which it reportedly sent no fewer than 25 FSA staff, assisted by 11 officers from the City of London Police, into businesses in Greater London.

Today, as reported by the FT’s Alphaville blog, insider trading went “mainstream” as the UK’s Independent featured a story on its front page about the latest from the FSA.  The Independent reports that

A series of insider dealing scams, involving corporate takeover deals worth millions of pounds have been uncovered in the biggest-ever crackdown on market abuse in the City by its regulator.

Dozens of corporate advisers and executives have already, or will be shortly, interviewed in six separate cases being investigated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

Margaret Cole, head of enforcement at the FSA, told the The Independent “she wanted to send a message to the City that there were no hiding places for those who tried to profit by abusing the financial markets” and that three other cases were being prepared for court this year and three more were being investigated.

The UK’s Telegraph also had a story on Ms. Cole’s comments entitled, “FSA gets tough on insider dealing.”

UK readers, is there a shift underway in how the public and the press view the FSA’s efforts to combat insider trading?

Read the Independent article