Financial News

  • 8 January 2014, 20:56

Co-Op: Regulator Stands By Flowers Decision

A senior City regulator has told MPs he stands by his decision to approve the appointment of disgraced former Co-op Bank chairman Paul Flowers, arguing it was "correct at the time".

Clive Adamson, director of supervision at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), said the Methodist minister seemed to be the right person to control the "unruly" board at the bank, despite him later becoming embroiled in a drugs scandal and displaying a lack of knowledge about banking.

He said that Mr Flowers was "not the same individual" as he seemed at a later meeting before the Treasury Select Committee last year, when gave a stumbling performance and seemed unable to give basic facts and figures.

Mr Adamson was quizzed by MPs on the same committee about a 90-minute meeting he and two colleagues at the now-defunct Financial Services Authority held with Mr Flowers ahead of his appointment in 2010.

At the meeting, it was agreed two deputies would be needed to assist Mr Flowers as chairman because of his lack of banking knowledge.

He told the Treasury Select Committee: "I stand by the decision I made at the time.

"I am as surprised as all of us as to the events that surrounded Mr Flowers' apparent misdemeanours."

Following close questioning by MPs, Mr Adamson eventually agreed that the FSA overall made a mistake, but insisted he stood by the decision on Mr Flowers.

"With the benefit of hindsight, yes we did get it wrong," he said.

But committee member Jesse Norman likened it to a doctor saying: "The operation was a success but the patient died."

The Co-op Bank last year had to be rescued after a 1.5bn hole was discovered in its finances.

Regulators have announced the launch of investigations that could see former senior managers fined or banned from working in the industry.

Mr Adamson told the committee he was surprised by the former chairman's answers during his appearance before MPs last year, and that at his own meeting with Mr Flowers he had been "much more cogent".

But committee chairman Andrew Tyrie told him: "It is an extraordinary state of affairs that you are asking us to believe."

He criticised the decision to put Mr Flowers in place to oversee the board, saying: "Your solution was to put a financial illiterate in charge of it."

Mr Adamson said he was disappointed that no one "in public life or indeed his other associations" who may have "known more about some of his misdemeanours" ever alerted regulators.

But he admitted that he had never before approved a chairman with such little experience, telling MPs: "There was no hiding the fact that he didn't have sufficient experience so the decision was around how that could be mitigated."

Mr Adamson said Mr Flowers' 1981 conviction for gross indecency was disclosed but it was not considered relevant and he was not questioned about it. He said a separate drink-driving conviction was not known.

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