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Private warnings for 14 bank bosses: Watchdog issues secret rebukes to avoid full probe into bad behaviour

Dozens of top bankers have escaped with a secret slap on the wrist after breaking rules laid down by the City watchdog.

The Financial Conduct Authority has given 39 senior City executives a quiet ticking-off in the past five years rather than publicly investigating them, figures released in a freedom of information request have revealed.

Those to have escaped more severe penalties even include 14 chief executives. And 14 of the 39 are still in senior industry jobs.

Andrew Bailey, who became chief executive of the FCA last year, has sought to shore up the watchdog’s reputation since taking over last summer

The FCA claims these private warnings are used instead of a fine or ban in cases where breaches are believed to be relatively minor or were quickly corrected.

DBut the revelations will anger critics who believe the watchdog has a cosy relationship with many firms and is unwilling to confront senior financiers.

SNP MP George Kerevan, who sits on the Treasury Select Committee, said: ‘Justice is only justice when it’s seen to be done.

‘Ticking someone off in private isn’t going to change their behaviour – they will just feel they’ve been let off.’

A private warning can be given without a full investigation and they do not determine that misbehaviour definitely took place, just that it might have done. Although the public – and bank customers – never get to know about the warnings, they must be revealed to new employers.

Many bankers complain this makes it difficult to move jobs, particularly as FCA approval is also needed. The warnings cannot be contested except by an expensive, lengthy and public judicial review.

There was a spike in their use in 2012, the figures show, with 21 senior executives told off.

The FCA has long faced accusations of going soft on top bankers

Many of these dressings down are believed to be linked to the Libor interest rate-rigging scandal.

The furore saw a string of traders locked up but executives have so far avoided jail, despite several of those sent to prison claiming they were following orders from senior management.

The FCA has long faced accusations of going soft on top bankers and large institutions.

Most recently, it drew the ire of entrepreneurs whose businesses were destroyed in the Great Recession over an investigation into claims they were deliberately tipped into administration by the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The regulator found no evidence of systematic wrongdoing.

Andrew Bailey, who became chief executive of the FCA last year, has sought to shore up the watchdog’s reputation since taking over last summer.

He is overseeing reviews into everything from spread-betting firms to stock market floats, and has vowed to fight to protect consumers.