FCA refuses to hand over reins on Woodford inquiry

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Lucy Harley-McKeown
·2 min read
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British fund manager Neil Woodford is seen in this undated handout image released July 18, 2019. Jonathan Atkins/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
British fund manager Neil Woodford is seen in this undated handout image released July 18, 2019. Photo: Jonathan Atkins/Handout via REUTERS

The UK's primary financial watchdog has rejected calls that it should hand over responsibility for its inquiry into the collapse of fund manager Neil Woodford's investment empire.

According to reports in The Telegraph, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) was urged by campaigners to hand over the probe, which started in 2019, and widen its scope, ever since Woodford unveiled his plans for a comeback last month.

Regulators, however have refused to listen to both these calls and claims they are taking too long with the matter.

Cliff Weight, director of ShareSoc — an organisation formed to represent the interests of individual investors throughout the United Kingdom, tweeted that the FCA should not "mark its own homework."

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The FCA had sent a letter to activists that it “cannot delegate these powers and responsibilities to third parties.”

"Only the FCA has powers under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 to investigate regulatory contraventions and take enforcement action,” it said, according to the Telegraph report.

The letter was signed by FCA chairman Charles Randell on behalf of the board and sent to campaigners Gina and Alan Miller.

READ MORE: Neil Woodford's stricken £3.1bn fund to be shut and Woodford sacked

In February, Woodford and business partner Craig Newman told The Sunday Telegraph they are setting up a new company in Jersey. They said the new business, Woodford Capital Management Partners, would focus on investments in the biotech, biosciences and healthcare sectors. It will only be open to professional investors.

Woodford had developed a reputation as one of the UK's most successful money managers during a quarter century career at Invesco. He left in 2014 to set up his own venture, Woodford Investment Management.

Woodford's new company attracted billions from both retail and professionals investors. After a successful first few years, funds began to underperform. Investments in unlisted businesses also raised eyebrows.

Crisis struck in 2019 when a major investor tried to withdraw money. Facing a liquidity crunch, Woodford was forced to suspend withdrawals from his biggest fund, the Equity Income Fund, which has £3.1bn ($4.3bn) under management.

After struggling to sell-off enough investments to meet withdrawals, the Equity Income Fund was closed by administrators Link Fund Solutions in October 2019. That ultimately led to the collapse of the entire Woodford business. Investors in Woodford's funds have taken significant haircuts on their investments.

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