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UK financial watchdog says it will seek broad consensus on 'naming and shaming' plans

FILE PHOTO: FCA signage is seen at their head offices in London

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) will seek to reach a broad consensus across industry on its disputed proposals to name companies being investigated earlier to avoid "taking a hammer to crack a nut", a senior executive at the watchdog said on Monday.

Currently, the FCA typically names a company once a probe has been resolved, and says naming companies earlier would strengthen the deterrence effect of enforcement.

The plans have triggered a fierce backlash from industry, alarmed that they will put off investment in Britain.

The finance ministry has said the plans should be stopped as they contradict a new remit for regulators to aid economic growth and financial sector international competitiveness.

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In the latest sign of how the watchdog is likely to ease the proposals, which have already been publicly consulted on, FCA executive director Sarah Pritchard said the FCA wants its rules to "drive the right outcomes" and avoid "taking a hammer to crack a nut".

"Confidence in the market is essential and that confidence is underpinned by a clear regulatory regime," Pritchard told a City & Financial conference.

The FCA has already said it would now consider that "public interest" test it would apply before naming a company.

"We recognise this is a sensitive and emotive issue, so we will take time to consider the feedback, to engage further with industry... with the aim of reaching a broad consensus," Pritchard said.

"We do listen, we are evidence led, and so will only act where a failure to do so would cause harm to consumers and undermine the integrity of our markets," Pritchard added.

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)