Food campaign news
Calling the FSA up on it's role in lobbying for food speculation
After my brief encounter with Barclays, where I presented them with a “shame” award for their role in food speculation, I was eager to cause some more mischief, this time with the Financial Service Authority (FSA).
A recent WDM report has revealed that the FSA’s relationship with city banks like Barclays has been getting rather “cosy”, and the regulatory body has been lobbying for the very firms that it’s meant to be regulating. The FSA has also been offering its “impartial” advice to the UK government to help MPs decide on the important MiFID legislation, which includes controls on food speculation, but the FSA’s advice seems to be based solely on the demands of the city giants.
Because of this, I decided to give the FSA a quick call. Tucked away upstairs in the WDM office’s meeting room (to avoid the inevitable embarrassment of ranting down the phone in front of fellow WDM employees); I dialled in the general enquiries number and was met with a surprisingly jovial FSA receptionist. She seemed a little confused when I started talking about food speculation and quickly offered to put me through to the Food Standards Agency (the other FSA), to which I politely declined. I explained that I had emailed FSA chairman, Lord Turner, to express my concerns about the damaging effects of food speculation on food prices and mentioned WDM’s research exposing the close links between the FSA and financial lobby. She responded saying that Lord Turner had received a large number of emails on the topic this morning and that he (the Lord himself!) would be responding to these shortly, with the help of his secretary of course. Unfortunately he wasn’t in the office and therefore unable to speak to me directly.
By this point I began to worry that she was doing all she could to get rid of me, so I stepped up my game and asked about the FSA’s official complaints procedure. She offered to put me through to the complaints line and after a long period of silence (during which I assumed she had hung up), she finally provided me with their details.
Despite the friendly receptionist’s insistence that the complaints line was busy, I get through on the first attempt. This time it’s an equally friendly sounding man, but he is doing his best to get me off the phone as quickly as possible and tells me to write an email. After informing him that I have already put my complaint in writing I ask if I could have some clarification on the complaints procedure. And this is where it gets interesting. I’m told that the FSA’s complaints scheme is a sort of evaluation process, where they decide on the merit of your complaint. After assessing the complaint against the complaints scheme’s criteria they label it either an ‘In letter’ or an ‘excluded letter’, with the latter category not being taken any further in the complaints procedure.
All of this leaves me a little baffled, so I ask how they decide if the letter is “in” or “out”. The now a little irritated receptionist responds saying “it depends on how the complaint is phrased”, suggesting that there is not even a clear structure for complaints. He goes on to inform me that due to section 348 of the 2000 Financial Services and Markets Act, they will not be able to inform me about any progress with my complaint, or even tell me, if and who, is looking into it. So I just have to wait and see if they respond! Finally I ask if the FSA has any comment on the organisation’s relationship with the financial lobby and the answer is a resounding “no”.
On finishing my call with Mr FSA I decide to do a little additional research of my own. After a lot of hunting I finally track down the official criteria for determining which complaints about the FSA get dealt with. Point 1.4.2A of the scheme dictates “The FSA will not investigate a complaint under the complaints scheme which it reasonably considers amounts to no more than dissatisfaction with the FSA's general policies” – looks like my complaint might be in the ‘excluded’ list.
Want to join in? Send an email to the FSA's chairman, Lord Turner, telling him that the FSA should not be lobbying on behalf of the banks it is supposed to be regulating. Once you've emailed, give the FSA a quick call to check that they've taken notice of your email.
Kathryn is fundraising and communications assistant at WDM and helps raise money from individuals and ethical companies.