The FSA says DSL, which specialises in spread betting and share dealing, provided an avenue for FCI to carry out penny share sales and should have made sure that FCI was providing customers with accurate and sufficient advice to make informed decisions about whether to invest in penny shares.
But, an FSA investigation found FCI’s sales showed “scant regard” for their customers. The regulator says potentially misleading sales pitches were used to persuade people to buy shares, regardless of whether those shares were suitable.
FCI failed to mention the risks associated with their recommendations, and made misleading statements about the companies they were advising people to invest in.
FCI also placed its customers’ money at risk by holding it in a connected, but unregulated, firm. As a result, DSL was fined £101,500 for failing to monitor FCI’s customer treatment, along with that of other former appointed representatives.
Director of enforcement Margaret Cole (pictured) says: “It is totally unacceptable for customers to be given misleading information, particularly when it relates to the risks of investing in penny shares. This applies whether that misleading information is given by an FSA authorised firm or by its appointed representatives.
“The small cap stock broking sector has been under increased vigilance by the FSA because of a need to drive up standards of customer treatment in this sector.
“This fine should serve as a warning to firms with similar business models that they need to be vigilant about what is going on at their appointed representatives – the responsibility lies with the authorised firm.”
DSL agreed to settle at an early stage of the FSA’s investigation. Had this not been the case, the financial penalty would have been £145,000. DSL has also agreed to contact FCI’s clients and provide redress where appropriate.
DSL has voluntarily varied its regulatory permissions, meaning that it can no longer take on new appointed representatives.