The Financial Conduct Authority has said it is investigating four fund management companies over concerns they may have broken competition law.
It has issued a "statement of objections" to Artemis Investment Management, Hargreave Hale, Newton Investment Management and River & Mercantile Asset Management.
This gives the firms notice the FCA thinks they have infringed competition law and the opportunity to respond to this claim, but does not mean any law has been broken and may not lead to an infringement decision.
The FCA alleged the four firms shared information by disclosing the price they intended to pay, or accepting such information, or both, in relation to one or more of two initial public offerings and one placing, shortly before the share prices were set.
In a statement the FCA said: "The sharing generally occurred on a bilateral basis and allowed firms to know the other’s plans during the IPO or placing process when they should have been competing for shares."
This is the first case the FCA has brought using its competition enforcement powers.
The FCA’s main allegations against the four firms are that in 2015, Newton and Hargreave Hale and River & Mercantile disclosed and/or accepted information about the price they intended to pay for shares in relation to one IPO and a placing.
It has also alleged that in 2014 Artemis and Newton shared information about the price they intended or were willing to pay for shares in relation to another IPO.
Following the issue of a statement of objections, the companies have the opportunity to make written and oral representations on the matters set out in it. Any such representations will be considered by the FCA before any final decision is taken.