(Bloomberg) — The U.K.’s financial regulator imposed just four fines so far this year — a record low — as the Covid-19 pandemic interrupted investigations.



a clock tower in the middle of a city at night: Businessmen pass an illuminated clock near the offices of global financial institutions in the Canary Wharf business, finance and shopping district at night in London.


© Bloomberg
Businessmen pass an illuminated clock near the offices of global financial institutions in the Canary Wharf business, finance and shopping district at night in London.

While the Financial Conduct Authority has levied more than 100 million pounds ($129 million) in financial penalties, the number of fines was down from 17 in the same period a year earlier, London law firm RPC said in a statement. The FCA’s investigations were likely hindered by difficulties conducting interviews with witnesses or suspects during the lockdown, the firm said.

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“While the FCA has issued relatively few fines in the last few months, it will want to make up for time lost during lockdown when it will, understandably, have experienced disruption and delay in a number of investigations,” said Jonathan Cary, an attorney at RPC.

An FCA executive this month acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic had taken up executives’ time throughout the year. The agency is also going through a leadership change, with Nikhil Rathi taking the top spot at the start of October.

The FCA said it was continuing to pursue cases, and that figures rise and fall naturally as investigations proceed.

“Enforcement has continued as normal during the pandemic,” a spokesman said. “The FCA will open cases where it suspects serious misconduct, with the number of new cases fluctuating month on month and year on year.”

The watchdog’s monitoring and supervision has also come under criticism recently. The FCA faces “some painful lessons” over the next few months as investigators prepare to publish several reviews of its potential failures, the former head of the FCA Christopher Woolard said last month.

London Capital & Finance