Pru’s censure strikes fear into UK CEOS

David Hellier
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BRITAIN’S heavy-handed regulations are making it an increasingly unsafe environment for chief executives, a lawyer acting for Tidjane Thiam said yesterday, after the Prudential chief executive was censured by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) for not contacting it about a proposed £30bn acquisition in 2010.

The FSA said yesterday that Thiam played a significant role, with others, in a decision not to contact it about the proposed acquisition of AIA, and was therefore knowingly concerned in this breach. But the ruling was attacked by Tony Woodcock, a lawyer at Stephenson Harwood, who has been working for the Pru.

“The UK is becoming an increasingly unsafe regulatory environment for CEOs. This is a classic example of retrospective punitive legislation, and it is bad legislation...because those who are subject to it learn little from this decision about where their obligations lie,” he said.

“Few, if any, could have identified from the FSA’s vague principles the precise point at which notification should have been made,” he added.

In censuring Thiam, who becomes the first chief executive of a financial firm in the FTSE 100 to suffer such an ignominy, the regulator made no finding of lack of fitness and propriety in relation to him, an FSA spokesman said.

Thiam is at the helm of a strong group whose London domicile is being questioned because of its growing Asian business, and creeping regulation, including the Solvency II rules.