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Taper trouble and lost pension found: the week in news

Taper trouble and lost pension found: the week in news

As no-deal seems increasingly likely and Boris Johnson hints at a potential general election within months, Brexit dominated the headlines once again this week.

But in financial services things were more decisive.  

The government announced it would review the allowance taper and a couple of firms were in hot water as the Financial Conduct Authority told a wealth manager to cease regulated activities and a short-seller accused an investment firm of misrepresenting returns.

It's time for the week in news.

1 A (ninth) week of Woodford woes

Neil Woodford’s stricken Equity Income fund experienced another bump in the road this week as short-seller Muddy Waters revealed it was betting against one of the largest investments in the flagship fund.

Muddy Waters questioned the accounting standards of Burford Capital — a business which Woodford owned 20.7m shares in — and accused the firm of “egregiously” misrepresenting its returns in recent years.

The share price of Burford Capital (a £2.2bn UK-listed business involved in litigation finance) fell from about £13 to £4.10 on the day this emerged, but it has today (August 9) bounced back slightly to £8.10.

It is also worth noting Mr Woodford will have still made a profit on his fund’s 9.5 per cent stake in the business, having bought the shares when they were trading at £1.20.

Fund giant Invesco is also involved in the debacle as Muddy Waters accused Mark Barnett, who runs an Invesco fund which is the largest investor in Burford Capital, of “bailing out” the firm after one of its investments went wrong.

Invesco refuted the allegations.

2 Whopping charges

A wealth management firm, which entered special administration this week after the FCA had 'serious concerns' about the way it was operating, was charging fees as high as 20 per cent, it has emerged.

The regulator intervened at SVS Securities PLC after it received a tip-off and consequently told the wealth manager to cease all regulated activity.

The FCA found it was targeting IFAs to promote its model portfolios to clients after a DB transfer or Sipp switch, but the proportion of illiquid and high-risk bonds was unlikely to match such clients' needs.

It was also concerned some customers had been charged a series of high fees and commissions, in some cases amounting to as much as 20 per cent of the total investment

The FSCS said it was working closely with the administrators to determine SVS's position in respect to client money, but confirmed it would cover assets and client money shortfalls if the business didn't have the funds.

3 Lost pension found

A retiree received a windfall pension payment of £133,000 after a chance conversation with an adviser led him to a state pension pot he didn't know existed.

Peter Williams, 76, spoke to an equity release adviser about releasing funds from his property as his two workplace pensions (worth £234 and £275 a month respectively) did not provide enough money to make ends meet.