MFSA looks beyond Malta’s shores to fill CEO role as it seeks to ‘regain credibility’

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The financial services regulator has issued an international call for applications for its top job in a bid to “regain its credibility.”

The Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) received some bad press recently when CEO Joe Cuschieri resigned in the wake of the Las Vegas trip scandal. He stepped down after it emerged that he had gone on a trip to the United States with Yorgen Fenech in 2018, to advise the latter on regulatory matters.

Fenech, who has since been outed as the owner of 17 Black and has been charged with masterminding the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, is a casino owner.

The MFSA’s general counsel, Edwina Licari, and a former personal assistant to disgraced OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri, Charlene Bianco Farrugia, also went on the trip.

Cuschieri, who landed the job in April 2018, resigned ahead of an internal MFSA investigation.

The board had later ‘ratified’ Cuschieri’s resignation and appointed the authority’s Chief Officer Supervision as interim, Dr Christopher P. Buttigieg, as interim CEO.

In January of this year, it was also revealed that the MFSA had asked Cuschieri to reimburse some €23,000 he had drawn in ‘extra pay’ for attending board meetings, even if this was part of his duties as CEO.

The authority has now started advertising the CEO vacancy both locally and abroad. The call was posted in international publications such as The Economist.

The authority falls under the responsibility of the Finance Ministry, headed by Clyde Caruana.

Sources said there was a political wish to have a “wide open process for the sake of transparency.”

The call was opened on an international level to help the MFSA “regain credibility,” the sources added.

A specially appointed board will shortlist the applicants and choose the next chief executive. This will be a new procedure, since past CEOs were appointed by the authority’s board of governors.

According to the call, the successful applicant till be, “articulating the vision and strategy for financial services regulation and enhancing the reputation and standing of Malta’s financial services sector.”

The CEO will also be responsible “for the overall performance of the authority and the implementation of its objectives, strategy, and of policies as set by the Board of Governors.”

“Furthermore, you will help define and establish the jurisdiction’s and MFSA’s risk appetite, through formal definition and categorisations of risk, at gatekeeping, as well as at supervisory and enforcement levels.”

The main responsibilities “will focus on ensuring that supervisory and operational activities are undertaken in alignment with MFSA’s values and the established ethical principles.”

Applicants must hold prior experience working in a regulatory environment, ideally with exposure to multiple areas within financial services regulation.

They need to possess “excellent communication skills and a proven track record of engaging across segments within and outside organisations and the ability to make good decisions which are based upon sound judgements and analysis, evidence-based and well-documented case scenarios.”

A “solid” academic background in Financial Services, Management, Accountancy, Law and/or in other finance-related areas are also required.

When contacted by The Malta Independent and asked whether he is interested in applying for the post, acting CEO Christopher P. Buttigieg said: “I consider myself as a career financial supervisor and have been contributing to the MFSA’s development for more than twenty years. Whist I wouldn’t like to enter into a discussion on a personal matter, please note that I am committed to continue working on achieving the Authority’s objectives.”

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