FCA must set timeline for Woodford probe end, says Treasury committee chairman

August Graham, PA City Reporter

The City watchdog should lay out when its investigation into the collapse of a major investment fund formerly run by Neil Woodford will end, the chair of the Treasury Select Committee has said.

Mel Stride, who leads the influential group of MPs, said that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has been investigating the Woodford Equity Income Fund for 18 months, and added that the committee will consider requests for an independent investigation.

Mr Stride’s comments came after reports that Mr Woodford was planning to re-emerge on the investment stage.

“The previous Treasury Committee was vocal in its concerns regarding the failure of the Woodford Fund and the impact on its investors,” Mr Stride said.

“As the FCA’s investigation still continues over 18 months after the fund was suspended, the reports of the new fund may understandably be of concern to investors who previously lost out.

“The FCA should set out when we can expect its investigation to conclude.”

Mr Woodford’s funds were closed in 2019 to new investment and have slowly started to be sold off to ensure investors got some of their money back.

The funds included the flagship Woodford Equity Income Fund, which was valued at around £3 billion before it was closed.

They ran into cash flow problems after deciding to put large portions of investors’ cash into non-listed companies.

This meant that when demands came from customers who wanted their money back, it was difficult to raise the cash fast enough.

Reports emerged last week that Mr Woodford is considering a return to investment management, but this time he will focus on professional rather than amateur investors.

However the FCA said that Mr Woodford’s new firm WCM Partners would need a license before embarking on any regulated activity.

Mark Steward, FCA director of enforcement and market oversight, on Monday said that he knows the time taken for the probe causes frustration among those looking for answers.

But he stressed that it is vital the investigators look at all evidence.

He added that the FCA has agreed to share information with regulators in Jersey, where Mr Woodford might set up shop.

Mr Stride said: “It’s important to note Mr Steward’s comments reiterating some of the factors that the FCA will consider when taking a decision to authorise a new firm, along with the co-operation that has been agreed between the FCA and the Jersey Financial Services Commission.”

Following Mr Stride’s comments, the FCA added: “We appreciate the TSC’s interest in these issues.

“We committed to the Committee on Tuesday to provide a further update to them by May 31.”

Following calls from campaigner Gina Miller earlier this week, Mr Stride also said he would consider her requests that the committee ensure an independent investigation of the Woodford saga.

He said: “The Treasury Committee will consider this letter fully when Parliament returns next week.”

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