Persons subject to enforcement action may be prepared to agree the amount of any financial penalty, or the length of any period of suspension, restriction, condition,5 limitation or disciplinary prohibition5 (see DEPP 6A)4, and other conditions which the FCA seeks to impose by way of such action. These4 conditions might include, for example, the amount or mechanism for the payment of compensation to consumers. The FCA recognises the benefits of such agreements, as4 they offer the potential for securing earlier redress or protection for consumers and a cost saving4 to the person concerned and to the FCA4 in contesting the financial penalty or other disciplinary action4. The penalty that might otherwise be payable, or the length of the period of suspension, restriction,5 condition4 or disciplinary prohibition5 that might be imposed, for4 a breach by the person concerned will therefore be reduced to reflect the timing of any settlement agreement.233333322
In appropriate cases the FCA's3 approach will be to negotiate with the person concerned to agree in principle the amount of a financial penalty having regard to the FCA's 3statement of policy as set out in DEPP 6.5 to DEPP 6.5D and DEPP 6.6.1 (This starting figure will take no account of the existence of the settlement discount scheme described in this section.) Such amount ("A") will then be reduced by a percentage of A according to the stage in the process at which agreement is reached. The resulting figure ("B") will be the amount actually payable by the person concerned in respect of the breach. However, where part of a proposed financial penalty specifically equates to the disgorgement of profit accrued or loss avoided then the percentage reduction will not apply to that part of the penalty.313
- (1) 3
- (a) 3
the period from the end of stage 1 until the expiry of the period for making written representations or, if sooner, the date on which the written representations are sent in response to the giving of a warning notice ("stage 2");
the period from the end of stage 2 until the giving of a decision notice ("stage 3");
the period after the end of stage 3, including proceedings before the Tribunal and any subsequent appeals ("stage 4").
The communication of the FCA's3 assessment of the appropriate penalty for the purposes of DEPP 6.7.3G (1)(a) need not be in a prescribed form but will include an indication of the breaches alleged by the FCA3. It may include the provision of a draft warning notice.33
The reductions in penalty will be as follows:
Stage at which agreement reached
- (1) 3
In certain circumstances the person concerned may consider that it would have been possible to reach a settlement at an earlier stage in the action, and argue that it should be entitled to a greater percentage reduction in penalty than is suggested by the table at DEPP 6.7.3G (3). It may be, for example, that the FCA3 no longer wishes to pursue its action in respect of all of the acts or omissions previously alleged to give rise to the breach. In such cases, the person concerned might argue that it would have been prepared to agree an appropriate penalty at an earlier stage and should therefore benefit from the discount which would have been available at that time. Equally, FCA3 staff may consider that greater openness from the person concerned could have resulted in an earlier settlement.33
Arguments of this nature risk compromising the goals of greater clarity and transparency in respect of the benefits of early settlement, and invite dispute in each case as to when an agreement might have been possible. It will not usually be appropriate therefore to argue for a greater reduction in the amount of penalty on the basis that settlement could have been achieved earlier.
However, in exceptional cases the FCA3 may accept that there has been a substantial change in the nature or seriousness of the action being taken against the person concerned, and that an agreement would have been possible at an earlier stage if the action had commenced on a different footing. In such cases the FCA3 and person concerned may agree that the amount of the reduction in penalty should reflect the stage at which a settlement might otherwise have been possible.33
2The settlement discount scheme which applies to the amount of a financial penalty, described in DEPP 6.7.2 G to DEPP 6.7.5 G, also applies to the length of the period of a suspension, restriction,5 condition or disciplinary prohibition (other than a permanent disciplinary prohibition)5, having regard to the FCA's3 statement of policy as set out in DEPP 6A.3. No settlement discount is available with respect to a permanent disciplinary prohibition.5 The settlement discount scheme does not apply to the length of the period for which approvals under section 59 of the Act have effect as a result of a limitation, as different considerations apply to determining the appropriate length of this period: see DEPP 6A.1.5G and DEPP 6A.3AG. However, the FCA will take into account that the approved person is willing to enter into a settlement agreement when determining the appropriate period.443