Final Notice

On , the Financial Conduct Authority issued a Final Notice to Lewis Alexander Ltd



Lewis Alexander Ltd


The Copper Room

Trinity Way


By an application dated 6 March 2015 Lewis Alexander Ltd (“LAL”) applied under

section 55A of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (the “Act”) for permission

under Part 4A of the Act to carry on the regulated activities of debt adjusting and

debt counselling (the “Application”).

For the reasons listed below, the Authority has refused the Application.


The Authority considers that over the course of the assessment of the Application,

LAL has on a number of occasions:

i. questioned why it is required to provide information to the Authority in a forceful

and argumentative manner;

ii. demonstrated a reluctance to provide information to the Authority and comply

with the Authority’s rules and other legal requirements;

iii. adopted an uncooperative and/or hostile attitude when reacting to the provision of

information or feedback given; and

iv. adopted an uncooperative and/or hostile attitude when complying with requests

made by the Authority.

In light of the above, taking LAL’s responses and conduct as a whole over the course

of the assessment of the Application, the Authority is not satisfied that:

i. It will receive adequate information from LAL to enable it to determine whether it

is complying with the requirements and standards under the regulatory system for

which the Authority is responsible;

ii. LAL is fit and proper as it has not demonstrated that is has been, and will be, open

and cooperative in its dealings with the Authority, and that it is ready, willing and

organised to comply with the standards and requirements of the regulatory

system; and

iii. LAL has in place appropriate human resources that are both able and willing to

understand, and ensure that LAL complies with, regulatory standards and


On 17 April 2018 the Authority gave LAL a decision notice (the “Decision Notice”)

which notified LAL that it had decided to refuse the Application on the basis that it

was not satisfied that it could ensure that LAL met, and would continue to meet, the

threshold conditions (in particular, the effective supervision, appropriate resources

and suitability threshold conditions).

On 14 May 2018, LAL referred the Decision Notice to the Upper Tribunal (Tax and

Chancery Chamber) (the “Tribunal”). The written decision of the Tribunal was

released on 19 February 2019 (the “Decision”) and can be found on the Tribunal’s

The Tribunal dismissed the reference.

The Tribunal’s written decision sets out fully the Tribunal’s reasons and should

therefore be read in full. Those reasons are incorporated herein by reference.

The Tribunal noted in the Decision that the Authority has adopted a particular

approach to regulation which puts the responsibility primarily on regulated firms

themselves to ensure they are meeting the Authority’s requirements, although the

Authority seeks to assist firms by providing considerable guidance, either on its

website or in targeted communications to regulated firms, informing them of the

approach the Authority seeks to take and what its requirements mean.

The Tribunal found that LAL had failed to understand the different roles and

responsibilities of the applicant and the Authority. At paragraphs 192 and 193 of the

Decision, the Tribunal stated:

“We find that at the heart of the difficulties caused for the Authority in this case was
the failure, right from the outset of the Application, of Mr Johnson [the sole director
of LAL] to understand that it was primarily his responsibility to familiarise himself
with the Authority’s regulatory requirements and ensure that he could satisfy the
Authority that LAL was in a position to meet them.

For this reason alone, in our view the Authority had sufficient reason to conclude that

LAL was not ready, willing and organised to comply with the standards and

requirements of the regulatory system.”

At paragraphs 197 and 198 of the Decision, the Tribunal stated:

“In this case, we find that Mr Johnson’s whole approach was not to cooperate with

the Authority but to attempt to get it to deal with his firm differently […] Mr

Johnson’s approach […] was to demand that he be spoon-fed with particular

requirements relevant to his firm. It was clear that he had taken no steps to

familiarise himself with the relevant regulatory requirements, which LAL had been

obliged to comply with since the date of LAL’s interim permission. It was also clear

that he had made no attempt to access and understand the considerable amounts of

information that were available to help him by that time, including the guidance

issued in March 2014 or by signing up to receive alerts […]

As regards the complaint that a small firm like his could not afford compliance

advice, although we can understand why the obtaining of external advice at

reasonable cost may be problematic for a small firm, a firm that finds itself in that

position has a choice. It must either take responsibility itself for researching and

understanding the relevant requirements, using all the material available to assist as

described above; or, regrettably, it must conclude that it cannot pursue its


The Tribunal found that the manner in which LAL dealt with the Authority in relation

to its requests for information meant that the Authority was justified in its concerns

that LAL would not be capable of being effectively supervised if authorised and it

could not be satisfied that LAL would engage with the Authority in an open and

cooperative manner in relation to its consumer credit business.

At paragraph 216 of its decision, the Tribunal stated that it had “no reason to cast

any doubt on the reasonableness of the decision by the Authority to refuse the

Application” that on the basis of the information available to the Authority at the

time of the Decision Notice, the decision to refuse the Application was one within the

range of reasonable decisions that it was open to the Authority to make.

At paragraph 217 of the Decision, the Tribunal stated:

“In our view, bearing in mind the Authority’s supervision model for small firms such

as LAL and LAL’s approach during the course of the Application and thereafter, on

the basis of our findings the Authority was fully justified in concluding that it was

unable to ensure that LAL satisfied the Threshold Conditions. We therefore agree

with the Authority’s assessment that LAL had demonstrated a reluctance to provide

information and comply with the rules contained within the Authority’s Handbook,

forcefully and argumentatively questioned why it was required to provide information

and adopted an uncooperative attitude.”

The Tribunal noted in paragraph 215 of the Decision that, while its assessment is

that it will be very difficult in the future to authorise a firm where Mr Johnson is the

sole human resource, “there may be a way for his [Mr Johnson’s] skills to be

deployed in a firm where he can be properly supervised and directed and where he

has no responsibility for dealing directly with the regulator, but where he can devote

his efforts entirely to giving his customers a good service.”

In light of the above, the Authority has issued this Final Notice.


This Final Notice is given under, and in accordance with, section 390(2) of the Act.

Sections 391(4), 391(6) and 391(7) of the Act apply to the publication of information

about the matter to which this notice relates. Under those provisions, the Authority

must publish such information about the matter to which this notice relates as the

Authority considers appropriate. The information may be published in such manner

as the Authority considers appropriate. However, the Authority may not publish

information if such publication would, in the opinion of the Authority, be unfair to LAL

or prejudicial to the interests of consumers or detrimental to the stability of the UK

financial system.

The Authority intends to publish such information about the matter to which this

Final Notice relates as it considers appropriate.

Authority contacts

For more information concerning this matter generally, contact Marina Lancaster

(020 7066 5250/ of the Lending and Intermediaries

Department of the Authority.

Head of Lending and Intermediaries

Supervision Division (Retail and Authorisations)


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