Burns is a UK-based investment professional who was working as chief executive of her own company, as well as acting as non-executive director and chair of two mutual societies, Marine and General Mutual Life Assurance and Teachers Provident Society, between 2009 and 2011.
The conflict arose when Burns, who was seeking consultancy work with US investment giant Vanguard Asset Management, referred the two societies to the company.
Under UK legislation, directors have a duty to disclose or avoid any possible conflicts of interest.
Burns did not warn the boards of the mutual companies that she was pursuing work with Vanguard, while recommending the investment company to them,
This “was inappropriate and inconsistent with the standards of integrity expected from senior managers”, said Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA.
The FCA’s Statement of Principle 1 requires people to “act with integrity in carrying out their controlled functions”.
Road to appeal
Burns was initially banned and fined by £154,800 ($195,000, €172,000), by the FCA’s predecessor the Financial Services Authority, in September 2013 as a result of her failure to disclose her conflicts of interest.
She challenged the regulator’s decision first at the Upper Tribunal and then the Court of Appeal, both of which re-enforced the FCA’s ruling.
However, the fine was cut to £20,000 by the Upper Tribunal after the initial sum was deemed excessive.
In November 2018, Burns took her appeal to the Supreme Court, but her application was denied, meaning the FCA’s decision came into effect.