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SFA faces flak over chief executive rules

The Securities and Futures Authority is expected to come under fire from senior members following proposals yesterday that will make it easier to prosecute chief executives of troubled firms such as Barings.

The SFA yesterday proposed reversing the burden of proof in its disciplinary procedures, by forcing chief executives to show they have done everything they can to avoid the problems endangering their businesses.

But many chief executives are concerned that this could give them an open-ended responsibility for everything that happens in their firms, whether or not it was within their control.

The controversial draft rules have been drawn up in response to the Barings collapse last year. They state that it will be presumed that the senior executive officer has failed to carry out his duties "unless it can be shown that he has taken all reasonable steps to avoid such damage".

The ground-breaking proposals are more radical than was expected in the summer and are a direct result of public anger that the SFA was unable to take disciplinary action against Peter Baring, chairman of Barings, or Andrew Tuckey, his deputy. Several more junior executives have been disciplined.

Nick Durlacher, chairman of the SFA, said he did not want to stop senior managers delegating or to make them take responsibility for the actions of all their employees. "But we will require that the responsibility be pinned on somebody.''