In the Martin Scorsese film, The Wolf of Wall Street, Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed New York City stockbroker Jordan Belfort in an adaptation of Belfort’s memoir of the rampant corruption, fraud and criminal excess which reportedly pervaded the financial services industry on Reagan-era Wall Street and beyond.
By some accounts the City of London during the Thatcher years was little – if at all – better behaved.
But times are changing.
Since the 1980’s the financial services industry has come under increasing scrutiny and regulation.
Particularly since the financial crisis of 2008 and ensuing recession, the blame for which the media and others lay at the door of the banks and other financial institutions, the industry has been under pressure to reform not only its financial practices but also its moral and ethical standards.
Responsibility now falls firmly on employers to check for convictions and approve employees undertaking significant roles in banks, and all businesses working in financial services will soon have like obligations.
The new Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SM&CR), which will be operative from March 2016, will immediately impact banks and other like institutions prior to a subsequent roll-out throughout the financial services sector.
The Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) Fit and Proper Test had been adjusted but will continue to be used to assess and approve key personnel.
Whilst Senior Managers will need direct approval from the FCA, employers will have the responsibility for assessing employees currently designated ‘Approved Persons’ and designate them ‘Certified Persons’.
All employers must now ensure they have procedures in place to assess the fitness and propriety of employees, including the checking of convictions for criminal offences.
Factors relevant to an employee’s honesty, integrity and reputation must also be considered as part of the Fit and Proper Test, alongside their competence and capability.
Even minor convictions may, therefore, be relevant, especially if they reflect a shortfall in personal honesty or integrity, or if they are not found to have conducted themselves appropriately during any investigation.
Alcohol and drug dependence – a major theme in the Scorsese film – may also be a relevant factor.
Cautions and other criminal proceedings could also be relevant, so those who avoid a conviction may still not pass the Fit and Proper Test.
So whether they are a full-blown, Belfort-esque Wolf of the City, or simply have a less-than-spotless record due to one or two youthful indiscretions, financial sector workers are to be held to a higher standard than ever.
At rhw we do not assist on criminal law matters, but our Employment Law team will be able to advise on your position in respect of any fallout you might suffer in the workplace after the fact.