Financial Conduct Authority  

FCA speaks out on Woodford return

FCA speaks out on Woodford return

The UK financial watchdog has warned it will assess the "fitness of management" before authorising Neil Woodford's new firm, in a rare statement issued late last night. 

In a release published at 9pm on Tuesday (February 16) the Financial Conduct Authority confirmed it was in contact with regulators in Jersey, where the disgraced fund manager's new business, Woodford Capital Management Partners, is expected to partially operate from. 

It emerged this week that Woodford was launching the firm, but for now this does not involve the creation of a new fund, or managing money on behalf of UK advised clients.

The FCA said: "Mr Woodford’s new business, WCM Partners Ltd, would need to apply for appropriate permissions before commencing any regulated activity in the UK.

"In taking any decision on whether to authorise a firm, we consider whether it is ready, willing and organised to comply, on a continuing basis, with our requirements and standards.

"That includes, for example, the sustainability of the firm’s business model and the fitness of its management."

Woodford's former company, Woodford Investment Management, has been unable to offer investment services to retail clients since it varied its permissions in April 2020. 

The regulator said it noted Woodford's "future business plans" following his interview with the Sunday Telegraph over the weekend, in which he revealed his planned comeback. 

In the interview Woodford apologised for the outcome he produced for investors, but largely blamed the actions of his funds’ administrator Link for suspending his Equity Income fund in June 2019, and for subsequently announcing the liquidation of the strategy. 

The resurface rattled the industry and has prompted calls for an independent investigation into the collapse of the fund, amid claims investors are "losing faith" in the regulator's supervision of the industry. 

In a letter to the Treasury Committee yesterday campaigners Gina and Alan Miller said it was "high time" an independent investigation also probed the FCA's part in the Woodford scandal.

The City watchdog's own investigation into the Woodford debacle is still ongoing. 

In last night's statement Mark Steward, director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, said: "The investigation is being appropriately resourced and is progressing, though there has been some impact on accessing certain documents and witnesses during the pandemic.

"It is important to note that any comment about the scope of this ongoing investigation is purely speculation; we have not confirmed who or what we are investigating, though it is public knowledge that there were a significant number of entities in the chain of operation of the fund.

"That is important for both legal and practical reasons. In complex investigations, for instance, the scope and subjects often change as further evidence comes to light during the investigation."

The FCA told FTAdviser in 2019 it would not commission an independent review into its own actions as part of the investigation, despite industry figures accusing it of having been "asleep at the wheel".