FCA moves to delay consultation responses amid coronavirus outbreak

Hannah Godfrey reports...

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has said it will extend the closing date for ongoing consultations and calls for input amid the coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement posted to its website today (17 March), the regulator said it would postpone activity it did not deem critical to protecting consumers and market integrity in the short-term, to give firms more time to focus on customers.

As a result, it said it would extend the closing date for responses to its open consultation papers and calls for input until 1 October 2020, and reschedule “most” other planned work.

The statement said: “Our rules give firms the ability to consider their arrangements and customers’ circumstances. We welcome firms reviewing their current arrangements to address the evolving situation while managing the risks to their employees, customers and the impact on the market.
“We are in regular contact with firms to assess their current position, and expect firms to be taking reasonable steps to ensure they are prepared to meet the challenges coronavirus could pose to customers and staff, particularly through their business continuity plans.
“We expect firms to provide strong support and service to customers during this period.  They should be clear and transparent and provide support as consumers and small businesses face challenges at this time. We also expect firms to manage their financial resilience and actively manage their liquidity.
“Firms should report to us immediately if they believe they will be in difficulty.”
Examples of delayed consultation papers included: CP20/3: Proposals to enhance climate-related disclosures by listed issuers and clarification of existing disclosure obligations, and CP19/32: Building operational resilience: Impact tolerances for important business services.

Meanwhile, examples of delayed publications included: Joint Prudential Regulatory Authority FCA work to develop industry-led guidance on how to integrate climate-related risks into business decision making across the financial services sector and vulnerability guidance.

Jake Green, a regulatory partner at law firm Ashurst welcomed the FCA’s action: “This signifies a slight and sensible shift in approach. From calls having to be recorded, to an acceptance that sometimes this may not be possible – the inference being that the clients’ best interest trumps recorded lines.

“While the consultation paper delays are interesting, there’s an absence of discussion in relation to Brexit onshoring and ‘standstill’ – so the politics is still alive.”