In The Spotlight: A bitter-sweet moment for the City's top crime buster

Margaret Cole, FSA
  • @davidprosserind

It can't have been an easy day for Margaret Cole, the Financial Services Authority's director of enforcement. The satisfaction she must have felt about the £2.8m fine handed down to former stockbroker Simon Eagle will have been tempered by the announcement from the Government that the FSA is to lose its powers to police white-collar crooks to a new all-powerful economic crime agency.

Still, while the FSA has been expecting bad tidings – in opposition, the Conservatives were hugely critical of the City regulator – its demise is no reflection on Ms Cole herself, who would be a prime candidate to head up the new agency. Appointed to her role in 2005, she has spearheaded a much more aggressive approach to wrongdoing in the City which has finally begun to pay off in recent times.

Ms Cole's fans expected no less. A high-flying student, she took her A-levels early at school in Preston before studying law at Cambridge. Her career began at a City law firm where she was involved in the clear-up from the collapse of BCCI, the biggest banking failure of the Eighties, and she also worked on behalf of the victims of the Robert Maxwell pension theft.

Both experiences hardened her attitude towards white-collar crime, as did a long stint at the American law firm White & Case, an experience that coincided with the attacks launched on economic criminals by Eliot Spitzer, then the Attorney General of New York.

Ms Cole's move into the public sector five years ago will have cost her dearly – partners at White & Case earned $1m a year – but she embarked on a recruitment drive at the FSA with the aim of turning it into a regulator criminals would fear. That work may now have to continue elsewhere.