The regulator’s dilemma

Currently the regulator lets the public know what general issues are kicking
around, but keeps the names of individual firms out of the glare of public
scrutiny. But in consultation it’s asking whether that should be changed?

Ask a financial regulator in the US and you will get a straight answer. Get
the names out there, let everyone know which firm is responsible for what. Here,
however, regulators are concerned that if they take that route, the information
will dry up and the firms will go quiet.

This will no doubt prove a conundrum. Go public and burn your sources, or do
it behind the scenes and risk not being seen to do your job.

That last point must be a real consideration for the people who now watch
over accountancy. Any regulator needs both the public and stakeholders to know
that its using its muscle, but if they cannot see who has been chastised, it’s
difficult to demonstrate effectiveness.

There’s another risk for the regulator in keeping its information hush hush.
That is that the regime could appear quite establishment in nature and
unthreatening to those who are being watched over. It could appear so
unthreatening that the very people needed to blow the whistle retreat because
they feel there’s no real sanction against offenders. That would be a real cause
for concern.

As the consultation runs its course the debate among regulators and the
profession will no doubt intensify. But that is, after all, a regulator’s job –
to make tough decisions.

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