UK firms handed half a billion in fines in 2021

Fines totalling almost half a billion pounds were handed out to UK companies during 2021, according to data published today by law firm, BLM. These include fines from four major UK regulators, including the Serious Fraud Office, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The largest fine (of over £264m) was handed to a banking group that was convicted of failing to comply with money laundering obligations. This was the first occasion on which such criminal charges had been brought by the FCA.

These findings were recorded by the insurance and risk specialist law firm’s D&O Tracker, which logs compensation and legal costs orders, as well as the term of any custodial sentences against directors.

The Tracker also identified multiple privacy rule violations, which the data showing that the Information Commissioner’s Office brought charges against firms that were calling, texting or emailing former customers without consent. Some of the breaches were committed by smaller firms, resulting in fines of more than £50,000 each.

Professional and financial risk partner at BLM, Alex Traill (pictured), says cases like these indicate how the regulators are increasingly looking to get tough against firms when their directors and officers are failing in their legal obligations.

“Even when businesses are not complicit in the illegal activity taking place, they can be functionally vital to facilitating the illegal activity. It demonstrates the importance of having appropriate D&O insurance coverage to protect businesses and their senior personnel," he added. “It’s not just the large corporations that can fall foul of the law. SMEs racked up over £60m in D&O fines in 2021, compared to £120m over five years between 2016-2020. The safeguarding of customer data is the responsibility of company directors and officers and when that data is misused, directors can face fines or even custodial sentences. Being properly insured is now more important than ever."

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