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Categories:Regulation

FSA raps stockbroker Wills & Co

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The FSA has censured London-based stockbroking firm Wills & Co for poor sales practices and not monitoring its advisers properly despite a fine and a previous requirement to take remedial action.

Wills & Co would have been fined £1.5m had it not been in the process of winding down its business and had a large amount of customer redress due.

The FSA has also stopped Wills & Co from giving investment advice. It is required to write to all its customers to confirm this change.

In October 2007, the FSA fined Wills & Co £49,000 for giving poor risk warnings and misleading information to its high risk penny share customers.

It was also required to correct the failings identified with its sales and compliance practices. Two months later, Wills & Co told the FSA that the necessary changes had been made.

But when the FSA conducted a visit to Wills & Co, it found the same failings. As a result, the FSA undertook a review of transactions and identified failings in all transactions and the risk that the customers may have been given unsuitable advice.

To protect consumers, the FSA required Wills & Co to engage an external consultant to retrain and monitor its advisers and then stopped it providing investment advice.

Director of enforcement Margaret Cole says: “It is shocking that despite previous action, Wills & Co still failed to put its customers’ interests first.

“The FSA has made no secret of the fact that it expects higher standards of customer treatment in the stockbroking sector.  What makes this case particularly serious is that the firm was fined by the FSA and promised the FSA that its treatment of customers had improved when that was plainly not the case.

“This is unacceptable and justifies the action we have taken against the firm and its directors.”  

The FSA has also issued statements of misconduct against Wills & Co sales director Darren Lansdown and compliance director Katharine Prichard for failing to ensure the business was run in compliance with regulatory requirements.

In particular, they did not make sure that changes to Wills & Co’s compliance monitoring and sales practices were sufficient to correct the failings identified by the FSA.

Both directors have signed undertakings not to hold senior management functions in the financial services industry for three and five years respectively.

Cole says: “Directors must take their duty to meet our regulatory standards seriously or face the consequences. It is down to a firm’s directors to set its culture and approach so that customers are treated fairly and in this instance, Lansdown and Prichard failed in their responsibilities.”


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Readers' comments (12)

  • FSA raps Stock Broker. FSA fines IFA. FSA bans Mortgage Broker. FSA fines Hedge Fund manager.

    But still the FSA never seems to do any of these things to any of the................

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  • Now now Julian - Nationwide were fined £1M for losing a laptop.....

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  • All the same, 'someone else was doing something wrong too'has never been an acceptable defence in a criminal court.
    To be fair to the FSA it does seem to be doing its bit to root out undesirables and bad practice, particularly in the mortgage sector, at the moment.

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  • Julian, the................are untouchable, always have been, always will be.Their rewards, a big fat bonus.Bit like the FSA really.

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  • Well they need to pay for their expenses.

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  • Ah, Alistair ...

    ... but how many of the B**ks have been forced to stop giving advice because of compliance failings, forced to undergo supervision orders, write to customers explaining, etc?? Forced to give back/forego bonuses ... oh damn ... there were two the other day weren't there!!

    It was en expensive laptop, wasn't it - shoulda gone to PC World!! (tic)

    :-)

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  • Just where do all those fines go. So many that you would think there was no need for an annual fee, fscs levy's etc etc.

    Don't you just wonder if those "back pockets" could get any fatter.

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  • What censure action has been taken against the FSA for Data Protection failures and failing to regulate the banks properly or when it comes to that failing to regulate.......... it all about sound bites and headlines - an investigation should be carried out into the FSA, those in glass houses???

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  • It is a little pointless criticising the b....s and then fining them amounts that they might notice or their shareholders might be annoyed by especially because they might be your next, very generous, employer?
    How many ex-regulatory employees and directors end up employed by IFA's?

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  • It is the role of a regulator to 'out' the bad boys but all this negative publicity does not enhance the FSA's reputation. This wide reporting of another misdemeanour clouds what little positive output the FSA may have. Why are they shouting these 'negative triumphs' from the rooftops, surely it is just part and parcel of their role? I suspect it is to perpetuate a culture of fear in the little man because quite clearly the banks can carry on regardless.

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