Labour plans agency to investigate insiders

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The Independent Online
THE LABOUR Party called yesterday for an independent agency to investigate allegations of insider dealing and was met with scepticism from City bodies, which would prefer increased use of civil penalties on the American model.

Alistair Darling, Labour's spokesman on the City, said it was wrong that politicians in the DTI should decide whether to pursue insider dealing prosecutions.

'As part of a radical overhaul of the financial services regulatory system, we intend that all investigations in relation to insider dealing will be supervised by an independent body,' he said.

'The Department of Trade and Industry will continue to investigate allegations, but the decision as to whether or not further proceedings should be taken will be made, not by a politician, but by an independent body whose impartiality is beyond question.'

Stockbrokers' representatives pointed to the difficulty of prosecuting insider dealing cases, and of proving beyond reasonable doubt that confidential information has been passed from person to person.

Graham Ross Russell, chairman of the Securities Institute, the stockbrokers' main trade body, called for the use of civil law rather than the 'blunt instrument' of criminal law. A civil case would require less evidence, he said.

David Langshaw of the Association of Private Client Investment Managers and Stockbrokers agreed that proving insider dealing under the present system was difficult. 'It doesn't matter if the investigation is done by the Spanish Inquisition if it can't be proved to an English jury.'

Mr Langshaw agreed with Mr Darling and Mr Ross Russell that there should be greater transparency by companies when handling price-sensitive information.