Last night’s excellent Panorama on the Blackmore Bond scandal, was pitched precisely to explain how ordinary savers were duped by unscrupulous fraudsters who have outwitted the FCA.
What is most worrying is that the FCA were shown to have repeatedly ignored the whistle-blowers who warned of what was going on.
There still appears to be an open door for fraudsters who use intermediaries to push unsound investments and there was nothing to show that anything much has changed since this latest financial disaster unravelled.
In other words, the next Blackmore is probably in the making.
If you are in the UK , you can watch the program via this link to BBC iplayer
Credit to Andy Agethangelou and the Transparency Task Force
Among those calling the FCA to account was Andy Agethangelou who conducted a protest at the treatment of Blackmore Bond holders in front of BBC cameras. I was very proud to see the dignity with which he spoke and gave others a platform to speak.
Andy’s tireless work for the victims of financial fraud was rewarded by this program that recognised his contribution.
I should also praise Angie Brooks for her work with Pension Life.
And the work of Alan and Gina Miller with their True and Fair campaign that has consistently called Andrew Bailey to account on a wide range of matters.
The FCA exposed again.
The FCA is funded to be a world class regulator and in many ways it is. I support its work on value for money, its work on Consumer Duty, the diligence of many of the case officers I deal with as an FCA authorised person.
But it has issues at senior management level dealing with fraud. Whether that fraud is against steelworkers, mini-bond holders or through the sale of structured products through offshore bonds, the FCA is failing to protect ordinary savers.
It is failing to listen to whistleblowers whether from the established media , acting for victims (like Angie Brooks) or working on the inside of financial services, as Paul Carlier did against the activities of the sales force in the City selling these bonds.
You can watch Paul’s video (produced in conjunction with the TTF) here. It shows how Blackmore got away with it.
This video is over 4 hours long- Paul is first on.
Paul reveals details of letters sent to the FCA over the last decade , warning of risks which only now are materialising
The FCA has seen the Blackmore scandal coming. In April 2020, The Independent ran this story
The sadly defunct Bond Review, ran this authorative piece on what was happening at Blackmore as the investment collapsed. This is an extract
Over the last five years the FCA has consistently taken the view that unregulated investments are not its problem (despite its statutory objectives to preserve confidence in the markets and protect consumers). After the departure of Andrew Bailey it is currently rudderless.
Although the FCA intervened in London Capital and Finance over its misleading promotions, which was swiftly followed by the collapse of the scheme, its powers to intervene in Blackmore are more restricted as Blackmore is not an FCA-related company.
At present the FCA appears content to let things run their course.
The consistent failure of the UK to bring its securities laws out of the 1920s, and of the FCA to enforce the requirement for companies relying on “high net worth / sophisticated investor” exemptions to prove that their investors qualify as such, means companies like Blackmore are free to raise money from UK investors without oversight from the FCA or meaningful disclosure requirements.
This is not a scandal as scandals have an element of the unexpected. This is the expected and intended consequence of deliberate regulatory and government policy.
It was only a matter of time for a major documentary to be produced. Some may argue that the BBC are merely recycling content, but that is to miss the point. The public awareness of financial scams, and pension scams in particular is weak. This program will have a positive impact on awareness, but at a cost to our world-class regulator.
The FCA has to reform itself, if it is not to lose public confidence.
The role of Amyma
Though the BBC did not name the boiler room Paul listened to through the “glass partition” separating his WeWork office from scammers. The firm is well known to be Amyma , a company with strong links to Blackmore.
A research briefing by the House of Commons’ Ali Scalchi, explained that the boiler room was an appointed representative , operating under the nose of the FCA within a couple of miles of the FCA’s head office.
Amyma fell into the FCA’s regulatory perimeter as it was an appointed representative (FRN: 812731) of an FCA registered company , Equity for Growth (Securities) Limited (registration number: 475953) -registered since May 2008. While Amyma is now liquidated, Equity for Growth is still trading
Amyma even had the cheek to advertise itself as “spotting a thief” , the advert below appeared in the Police Federation’s October 2018 staff magazine.
This is an excerpt from that research briefing.
Blackmore’s customers are .. not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, a UK statutory scheme funded by the financial services industry which pays out compensation to customers when firms fail. Customers also generally do not have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) for easier dispute resolution.
However, the marketing of the mini-bonds does fall within the Financial Promotions Regime. This means that while the product itself is unregulated, the marketing of the product needs to be made or approved by someone who is authorised by the FCA. Through this the FCA has the ability to enforce its rules to ensure that such promotions are (for example) fair, clear and not misleading.
BB used a marketing agency, Amyma Ltd (Amyma), to promote its bonds. Amyma was an “appointed representative” of an FCA-authorised firm, allowing it to carry out regulated activities as an agent of another firm.
Paul Carlier, whom The Independent describes as a “White-collar crime expert” said that Amyma were “targeting pensioners and unsophisticated investors, using high-pressure sales tactics and making what he believed to be false and misleading statements”.
Amyma was not investigated by the FCA (though it knew about it), it went into liquidation and its Directors are as much at large as Blackmore’s Nunn and McReesh.
You can follow correspondence between whistleblowers and the FCA’s recently retired Mark Steward on this link.
The role of Amyma in this is important, it was the opportunity for the FCA to act and it failed to take that opportunity.
Normally such a program would escalate the debate, but there is little scope for further escalation. The FCA’s former CEO is now the Governor of the Bank of England.
Lined up by the BBC were a number of MPs and members of the House of Lords who are aware of all this. Susan Kramer, Kevin Hollinrake and Court of Appeal Judge Elizabeth Gloster all appeared on the Panorama program , expressing concern about the FCA’s failure to act.
Just what more is needed to be done to get the FCA to improve its performance?
The Counter Factual
Were this to have happened in other countries – would the outcomes have been the same?
We know of the activities of the SEC in the USA and we can see why fraudsters prefer it over here.
If we had the direct interventions of the American or Australian regulators who use their police to enforce closure, would Amyma have been operating out of a WeWork in the City of London?
The program “Panorama: The Billion-Pound Savings Scandal suggests that the FCA has urgent need to reform its fraud prevention unit and start listening to the whistle-blowers who are reporting the next iteration of frauds.
Perhaps we need management used to getting results.
TTF follow up meetings
If you would like to participate in the discussions Andy Agethangelou is setting up following this program , you can do so by following this link
There is one today (Weds 17th August) 12-1pm and another 6-7pm