TTF Blog: 22 March 2021

TTF writes to Prime Minister with new evidence on Blackmore Bond and other scandals

FCA at the heart of concerns raised to PM

by Alex Varley-Winter, TTF’s Head of Media Relations & Investigative Reporting

Transparency Task Force has written to PM Boris Johnson with new evidence of alleged regulatory failure revealed at a TTF Symposium last week. 

TTF’s founder Andy Agathangelou told the PM that “Paul Carlier, the whistleblower featured extensively in last Saturday’s Telegraph gave a forensic and relentless exposé of not just the Blackmore Bond scandal, but also several other incidents, all backed up by hard Email-trail evidence that was displayed for all to see”.

Agathangelou is concerned that this is part of a pattern: “Dame Elizabeth Gloster’s scathing report into the FCA’s handling of LC&F, Raj Parker’s report on Connaught Income Series 1, the Telegraph’s revelations about Blackmore Bond, MPs stating “the FCA is not fit for purpose,” reports of system-wide failure from Peers and even the FCA itself feeling the need to apologise for its own poor performance.”

[Links added by TTF Blog]

Baronesses call on democracy to protect consumers

Two members of the House of Lords called for a rejuvenation of the UK’s democracy at last week’s event; they believe there is a ‘systemic’ failure to regulate financial services in the UK.

Baroness Susan Kramer told Transparency Task Force at the outset that she believes ‘we need to put iron in the spine of the FCA’. She also wants to see an Office to protect Whistleblowers, and  a “duty of care” imposed on financial service providers.

Baroness Natalie Bennett was, meanwhile, gave us her considered view at the end of Paul Carlier’s presentation: that his allegations imply a ‘deeply corrupt financial services sector’.

Lady Bennett relates this to what she sees as the “utter failures of our democracy” on the subject: “What we have here is a massive systems failure; and at the heart of that is a regulatory failure”.

Her argument on this point concerns the nitty-gritty of scrutinising and amending draft laws – democracy in action – and the need to prevent an industry lobby from running the show.

For example, Lady Bennett recently proposed amendments to the National Security & Investment Bill – but was one of few non-Conservative peers doing so. She also experienced the debate on the Financial Services Bill as “extremely thin”. This stood in stark contrast to the Domestic Abuse Bill, where action was taken by MPs across parties; typically between 12 and 20 supporting changes.

However, when laws are drafted on financial services, changes are – in Lady Bennett’s experience – proposed largely un-challenged by politicians who are “essentially representatives of the financial sector”. Can the interests of consumers be heard, above those of the financial services’ lobby? She said “we’re starting to see a little bit more of a swell of movement of some people who are more of an opposition force.”

Why did the FCA fail to act on red flags from experts?

Paul Carlier is widely-known to have warned the Financial Conduct Authority about Blackmore Bond three years before it collapsed. What has been less clear up until now is that he wasn’t the only expert raising the alarm by 2018.

According to Carlier, as early as 2017, he and his collagues could hear Amyma’s sales agents through a glass partition in their office, as they were based next door.

He alleged to the FCA that Amyma promoters were, among other factors:

  • claiming that returns on Blackmore bonds were ‘guaranteed’ by one of the world’s largest banks.
  • saying that they would put customers down as ‘sophisticated’ in a potential breach of COBS rules.

Shortly before last Thursday’s event, financial expert Sam Blanning came forward to Carlier. He had also reported Blackmore bonds to the FCA in 2018. In his case, he had approached them simply because of the Facebook ad pictured below – and others like it, which he recognised could breach COBs rules.  “Blackmore Bond is still actively soliciting investors via Facebook and Google ads”, he said.

Blanning believed that the regulator should ‘act as a matter of urgency’. He suggested to the watchdog that Blackmore Bond ought to “immediately close to new investment until it can show that it has put in place processes to ensure that all of its investors qualify as high-net-worth or sophisticated, or are otherwise exempt from COBS 4.12.3″

He also warned that, if the company were to default on its bonds, “there is potential for significant damage to the FCA’s reputation should it emerge that it was aware of the systematic promotion of these bonds to retail investors, and took no action that would have prevented further retail investors from investing their money.”

Blackmore Bonds - would you have spotted the risk?

This online ad prompted Sam Blumfeld to write to the FCA in 2018 advising "urgent" action, but they didn't appear to act until after Blackmore Bond stopped trading.

Press Timeline of relevant articles:

 
20 Mar 2021We need protecting from the crime of the century, by James Coney in the Times
 
20 Mar 2021FCA rejects independent Woodford inquiry by Lucy Burton in the Telegraph
 
15 Mar 2021Andrew Bailey under pressure over link to RBS scandal by Edward Thicknesse in City A.M.
 
12 Mar 2021Beware the City’s push for a new regulatory watchdog by Helen Thomas for the FT
 
 
02 Mar 2021 – MPs question Butler appointment amid FCA failings by Chloe Cheung for FT Adviser
 
27 Feb 2021Neil Woodford’s Gang of Six, by Ali Hussain for the Times
 
 
 
20 Feb 2021£1.5bn Germany property scandal leaves British savers facing financial ruin by Jessica Beard for the Telegraph
 
17 Feb 2021Where next as government bonds lose power of diversification? by Adam Lewis for Portfolio Adviser
 
17 Feb 2021Neil Woodford under fire from Jersey regulator by Lucy Burton for the Telegraph
 
 

06 Feb 2021Fraud victims suffer enough – guarantee will help innocent overcome shame of scamming by Daniel Jones for the Sun

05 Feb 2021Leader: The FCA’s leaders need to step up when things go wrong by Justin Cash for MoneyMarketing

04 Feb 2021Pension scam victims say regulators should have saved them from from losing life savings, by Jessica Beard for the Telegraph

05 Feb 2021 U.S. Consumer watchdog sees surge in Robinhood complaints, some clients claim they can’t leave the app by Kate Rooney & Yasmin Khorram for CNBC

02 Feb 2021SMCR rules come back to bite FCA in mini-bond probe ‘rules around senior managers being held responsible for their actions have come back to bite the regulator’, by Daniela Esnerova for MoneyMarketing

02 Feb 2021Regulation must deliver transparency and protection for Buy Now Pay Later consumers by Alex Marsh for City A.M.

02 Feb 2021 Bank chief Bailey ‘should be censured’ for failings by James Hurley for the Times

02 Feb 2021FCA criticised for trying to omit names from LCF report by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser

02 Feb 2021Poll: Should FCA executives bear personal responsibility for the London Capital and Finance fallout? by MoneyMarketing

01 Feb 2021 – Investment funds flouting new transparency rules by Patrick Hosking for the Times

01 Feb 2021MPs launch full inquiry into London Capital & Finance scandal with chairman declaring it will be “thorough and clear” by Jim Armitage for the Evening Standard

30 Jan 2021Analysis: Robinhood and Reddit protected from lawsuits by user agreement, Congress by Tom Hals for Reuters

29 Jan 2021The Financial Services Bill doesn’t provide the tough regulation we need by Professor Prem Sikka for Left Foot Forward

25 Jan 2021FCA urges clients of collapsed British Steel firm to consider claims by Sonia Rach for MoneyMarketing

22 Jan 2021HSBC chiefs to face MPs’ questions over Hong Kong protesters’ frozen accounts by Poppy Wood for City AM

21 Jan 2021MPs call on FCA to ‘hold bad advisers to account’ by Laura Purkess for CityWire

21 Jan 2021FCA told it lacks vision to tackle consumer issues by Amy Austin for FT Adviser

20 Jan 2021 Mortgage Prisoner amendments blocked by Treasury, by Suleman Baig for Quadrin Group

18 Jan 2021Former Hong Kong lawmaker rejects HSBC’s explanation over frozen accounts by Reuters

18 Jan 2021Supreme Court Rejects Appeal to Overturn UK’s First Unexplained Wealth Order by National Law Review

18 Jan 2021British Virgin Islands’ governor launches inquiry into alleged corruption by Patrick Wintour for the Guardian

18 Jan 2021What we learned from a bumper FCA data dump by Justin Cash for MoneyMarketing

18 Jan 2021Wall Street fears bubble from Biden stimulus as retail investing booms by Katherine Greifeld, Claire Ballentine and Vildana Hajric for Independent.ie

17 Jan 2021Bobby Kennedy was right: GDP is a poor measure of a nation’s health by Larry Elliott for the Guardian

15 Jan 2021 –  Mortgage prisoners accuse Treasury of working against them as wider FCA remit blocked by Owain Thomas for Mortgage Solutions

14 Jan 2021MP Vows To Keep Pushing Tougher Economic Crime Law by Richard Crump for Law360

13 Jan 2021Mortgage prisoner finance bill amendments struck down by Gary Adams for Mortgage Strategy

12 Jan  2021 – Hong Kong families with money trapped in closed law firm’s frozen bank accounts turn to government for low-interest loans by for South China Morning Post

12 Jan 2021 – Bitcoin: be prepared to lose all your money, FCA warns consumers by Kalyeena Makortoff  for the Guardian

11 Jan 2021Insolvency firms put under investigation after scandals, by Louisa Clarence-Smith for the Times

07 Jan 2021 Regulators and police say Covid lockdowns have driven up online pension scams and demand regulation of Google, Facebook and others by Jim Armitage for the Evening Standard

06 Jan 2021 Why UK savers could fall through the cracks in Brexit regulation from the FCA by Jim Armitage for the Evening Standard

04 Jan 2021Bank of England fails to publish officials’ expenses by Alex Ralph for the Times

03 Jan 2021Five years on and still no answers over HBOS affair by Jill Treanor and Liam Kelly for Sunday Times

31 Dec 2020So, when WILL we learn truth about bank chiefs? Another year and still no sign of key HBOS probe by Lucy White for the Mail

24 Dec 2020ASIC drops investigation into Westpac, by Investor Daily in Australia

21 Dec 2020Financial Conduct Authority fines just ten wrongdoers this year by Patrick Hosking in the Times

19 Dec 2020 Andrew Bailey could return to face MPs after damning report on London Capital & Finance scandal by Ben Martin & Patrick Hosking for the Times

18 Dec 2020Google urged to vet online financial promotions better by Huw Jones for Reuters

18 Dec 2020Financial Conduct Authority insiders warned of London Capital & Finance-style minibonds in 2013 but nothing was done by Jim Armitage for the Evening Standard

18 Dec 2020Blue Gate escapes $13.5 million Connaught fund fine from FCA by Huw Jones for Reuters

18 Dec 2020Executives at Financial Conduct Authority to lose bonuses over London Capital & Finance scandal by Ben Martin for the Times – Bosses at the Financial Conduct Authority will lose £205,000 in bonuses after the highly critical report on the regulator’s handling of the London Capital & Finance scandal

17 Dec 2020The fallout from the financial regulator’s shocking failure on LC&F is not over yet by Nils Pratley for the Guardian

17 Dec 2020FCA did not ‘effectively supervise’ collapsed mini-bond issuer LCF, says report by Matthew Vincent for the Financial Times  “Members of the Transparency Task Force, a lobby group pushing for regulatory reform, pointed out that in his own representations to the Gloster review, Mr Bailey included a demand “to delete references to ‘responsibility’ resting with specific identified/identifiable individuals”.

17 Dec 2020Former Financial Conduct Authority boss Bailey apologises over handling of mini-bond scandal by Ben Martin for the Times

16 Dec 2020EU cannot be ‘captured’ by City of London, warns financial services chief by Sam Fleming and Jim Brunsden for the Financial Times

16 Dec 2020Treasurer plots ASIC shakeout by John Kehoe for Financial Review

15 Dec 2020How to remake Australia’s lame corporate watchdog by Pamela Hanrahan for Financial Review

08 Dec 2020MPs call for £2.6bn Equitable Life compensation by Adam Williams for the Telegraph

03 Dec 2020HMRC ‘treat the victims of pension scams like criminals’: Taxman has benefited from the ‘proceeds of crime’ MPs are told by Tom Kelly for Daily Mail

25 Nov 2020FSCS seeks extra £92m in interim levy by Daniela Esnerova for MoneyMarketing

25 Nov 2020  – Trump Administration Targets Banks Divesting From Fossil Fuels In New Anti-Climate Rule by Sharon Kelly for DeSmogBlog

23 Nov 2020Bank of England policymaker warns of ‘pandemic hangovers’, as private sector shrinks – as it happened by Graeme Wearden for the Guardian

16 Nov 2020 – Bank of England ‘failing’ on climate change reform by Philip Aldrick for the Times

16 Nov 2020 – Fed moves closer to joining global peers in climate-change fight by Ann Saphir for Reuters

14 Nov 2020Fraudsters will exploit Covid vaccine to con vulnerable, warns National Crime Agency by Charles Hymas for Telegraph

09 Nov 2020Ombudsman inundated with complaints about loans by Katherine Griffiths for the Times

09 Nov 2020Spike in personal pension cases at ombudsman by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser

09 Nov 2020 – Regulator: Climate risk ‘looms even larger’ than pandemic by Avery Ellfeldt for ClimateWire (U.S.)

08 Nov 2020How financial services watchdog has reacted to UK consumer worries in Covid by Hilary Osborne for Guardian

08 Nov 2020Five predictions for banking regulation in a Biden presidency by Jon Hill for Law 360

05 Nov 2020Martin Lewis warns of ‘epidemic of scams’ after ICU nurse loses £8,000 by Scott Edwards for Wales Online

05 Nov 2020FCA bans adviser trio jailed for sex offences by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser

03 Nov 2020 – ‘We haven’t received a penny’: Business interruption insurance row intensifies as owners fear payout delays, by Elizabeth Anderson for iNews

03 Nov 2020Aviva’s shares fiasco highlights weakness of the city watchdog by Patrick Hosking for the Times

02 Nov 2020Banks have done little to help the country through the pandemic, so why is the government rewarding them? by Simon Youel for the Independent

29 Oct 2020 – Calls to sack Malta financial regulator CEO by Cristian Angeloni for International Adviser

27 Oct 2020U.S. group urges Biden to use financial regulation to control climate change by Valerie Volcovici for Reuters

27 Oct 2020 ‘Impact startups’ continue to raise funding during the pandemic despite difficulties faced by the wider tech startup sector by Sebastian Klovig Skelton for Computer Weekly

26 Oct 2020 – Why there must be thorough probe of claims made by Bank Signature Forgery Campaign – Greg Wright  for the Yorkshire Post

26 Oct 2020 –  Critics demand action over ‘flawed’ British Banking Resolution Service by James Hurley for the Times

24 Oct 2020Banks look to debt collectors to recover bounce back loans by Nicholas Megaw, Stephen Morris and Daniel Thomas for the FT

23 Oct 2020Bank Signature Forgery (film) by Nicholas Wilson for Corruption UK

22 Oct 2020 – UK fraud agency suffers string of senior departures by Kate Beioley for the FT

22 Oct 2020 HSBC froze £1.5bn of customers’ cash in ‘dormant accounts’ – report by Kalyeena Makortoff & Juliette Garside for the Guardian

22 Oct 2020Work harder to find fraud, watchdog tells auditors by James Hurley for the Times

17 Oct 2020 – MPs pursue claims bank signatures were faked on court papers by Rupert Jones for the Guardian

16 Oct 2020 We need universal digital ad transparency now by Laura Edelson, Erika Franklin Fowler and Jason Chuang for TechCrunch

15 Oct 2020 – Rising COVID-19 Rates Send NatWest Misselling Trial To Video by Bonnie Eslinger for Law 360

15 Oct 2020 – MPs Push Agencies to Act on Forged Signature Claims by Law360

13 Oct 2020 –  Mark Carney says banks should link executive pay to Paris climate goals by Kalyeena Makortoff for the Guardian

12 Oct 2020 ‘It is time to reboot the competition regime for the modern, digital age’ by David Wighton, The Times

12 Oct 2020 Gina Miller blasts FCA complaints scheme changes ‘unfair, immoral and illegal’ by Cristian Angeloni for Portfolio Adviser

12 Oct 2020MPs call for input on Pension Schemes Bill by James Phillips for Professional Pensions

10 Oct 2020 Give pension trustees power to fight scammers, say MPs by Kenza Bryan for the Times

08 Oct 2020  – Freedom to transfer pensions should be stripped where scams are suspected, industry experts urge by Jessica Beard for the Telegraph

08 Oct 2020 – Planned pensions shake-up passes first Commons hurdle by Law 360

08 Oct 2020 – WPC chairman says transfer rules ‘must be changed’ by Amy Austin for FT Adviser

07 Oct 2020 – Tech giants share blame for pension scams, MPs told by Law 360

06 Oct 2020 – FCA opens 85 cases over pension scam concerns by Amy Austin for FT Adviser

03 Oct 2020 – Record number of savers fall victim to investment fraud as scam adverts stay on Google by Andrew Ellson for The Times

02 Oct 2020A New Theory of Soil by Alex Varley-Winter for SustainAct

 
 
 
28 Sep 2020 – PM urged to show leadership in fight against scams by Amy Austin for FT Adviser
 
28 Sep 2020The 100 Whistleblowers who changed Wall Street by Stephen M. Kohn and Mary Jane Wilmoth for National Law Review
 
28 Sep 2020TTF calls for govt leadership on pension scams following meeting with PM by Sophie Smith for Pensions Age
 
 
26 Sep 2020 – £60m revamp for Action Fraud hotline that failed victims by Martin Beckford for The Sunday Times
 
25 Sep 2020 – FCA labels Google’s scam advert efforts ‘deeply frustrating’ by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser
 
23 Sep 2020 – Bank Forgery Campaign (video) by Andy Verity for BBC
 
 
20 Sep 2020 – Explore the FinCEN Files Data and Suspicious activity reports, explained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ); Fergus Shiel and Ben Hallman
 
21 Sep 2020 Flood of complaints expected over Covid-19 UK business loans, by Kalyeena Makortoff for the Guardian
 
 
 
16 Sep 2020 – Regulators Accused of Ignoring Scam Warnings by Jack Gray for Pensions Age
 
16 Sep 2020Tougher clampdown on pension scams is needed, MPs told by Vicky Shaw for Belfast Telegraph
 
 
11 Sep 2020 – ‘Delay changes to Watchdog Complaints Scheme’ by James Hurley for The Times
 
 
03 Sep 2020Regulators have not yet got to grips with how to close down crooks, warns TTF  by Hope William-Smith for Professional Pensions
 

24 Aug 2020Financial Conduct Authority rushes to minimise compensation for its failings by James Hurley for The Times

04 Aug 2020Have your say: Will the WPC’s inquiry into the impact of pension freedoms be too overshadowed by Covid-19 impacts? by Professional Pensions

03 Aug 2020 – ‘“I’m 39, have lost my job and am in debt – can I unlock my £18k pension?” … DON’T do it!’‘ by Steve Webb for This is Money

01 Aug 2020‘I lost £2.3m after I was conned into transferring my pension’ by Jessica Beard for the Telegraph

31 Jul 2020 ‘Common sense’ prevails as pension freedom withdrawals fall 17% — But drop is expected to be ‘a short-term blip’ by Robbie Lawther for International Adviser

31 Jul 2020HMRC figures show plunging pension freedom withdrawals by Hope William-Smith for Professional Adviser

28 Jul 2020MPs launch inquiry into pension scams  by Tom Kelly for Daily MailUK Pension Scams Under Scrutiny After 2015 Relaxation in Rules by Reuters & MPs launch wide-ranging pension scams probe by Justin Cash for MoneyMarketing

24 Jul 2020 – US business groups seek steps to stamp out online fraud by Leonie Barrie for Just Style

22 Jul 2020Pension scams increase amid lockdown by Sophie Smith for Pensions Age & Missed Opportunity to Use Victims in Scam Work by Amy Austin for FT Adviser

21 Jul 2020  Londongrad Calling: Is Europe’s Laundromat the ‘New Normal’? by Mark Conrad

20 Jul 2020 Campaigners Aim to Create Pension Scam Database by Michael Klimes & Government eyes unauthorised firms by Justin Cash for MoneyMarketing

17 Jul 2020 – Year ‘dominated’ by FCA shortcomings as 205 complaints made,  by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser

29 Jun 2020 – MPs Pushed to Launch Pension Scam Inquiry by Amy Austin for FT Adviser & Lawmakers Urged To Open Inquiry Into Pension Scams by Martin Croucher for Law 360

11 Jun 2020 Blackmore minibond investors get just £5m back by Ben Martin for the Times

14 May 2020 – Under Rising Pressure on Climate, JP Morgan Rejects Shareholders’ Calls to Disclose Carbon Footprint by Alex Varley-WInter for DeSmog

11 May 2020 – FCA urged to build public trust in independent reviews by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser

30 Apr 2020 – FCA was warned three years ago about mini-bond firm Blackmore Bond, which collapsed with £45m of savers’ money by Ben Chapman for the Independent

15 Apr 2020 – Met police lose two thirds of finance officers as fraud soars by Ben Ellery for the Times

25 Mar 2020 – Care Home Wants NatWest Docs in Misselling Fight by Law360

20 Mar 2020 – Connaught review delayed as Covid-19 concerns loom by Rachel Mortimer in FT Adviser

07 Jan 2020It’s time to keep your pensions promise, Boris! The PM pledged to help these victims of a huge scam FOUR years ago – and they’re still waiting by Tom Kelly for the Daily Mail.

29 Dec 2019‘Lambs to the slaughter – tens of thousands of savers have lost up to £10billion in rogue pensions schemes sanctioned by the government… and now the taxman is threatening VICTIMS with fines’, and ‘Making millions from other people’s misery’: A Government adviser, call centre chief and pension scheme director are among those who stand accused of involvement in pension schemes that exploited loophole in the law by Tom Kelly for the Daily Mail

15 Aug 2019Victims hit by Connaught’s collapse blast City watchdog for ‘whitewashing’ independent review by Lucy White for Daily Mail

05 Aug 2019Plunder in paradise: The ‘adviser’ behind a Costa scam that has cost expat pensioners £25MILLION – and led one to attempt suicide by Laura Shannon for Mail on Sunday

05 Jul 2019 Government-owned bank ‘forging signatures’ in repossession cases by Andy Verity for BBC

18 Jun 2019“I came home to find my house had been stolen!” by Angela Ellis-Jones for the Daily Mail

20 Jun 2019 – FCA orders review of its handling of Connaught collapse by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser

13 Jun 2019 – Investigation into disgraced RBS small business unit branded a ‘whitewash’ by MPs by Ben Chapman for the Independent

07 Jun 2019Guernsey Stock Exchange disputes FCA account over Woodford by David Thorpe in FT Adviser

29 Mar 2019MPs call for inquiry into alleged forgery of signatures by Andy Verity for BBC

15 Feb 2017 – RBS accused of fraud & forgery by customers and ex-employee by Andrew Hosken for The World Tonight BBC Radio 4

22 Dec 2016Solicitors suspended for roles in collapsed Brazilian investment scheme by Nick Hilborne for Legal Futures

23 Sep 2016Which? makes scams super-complaint by Adam French for Which?

08 Aug 2016The Latest Bank Interest Rate Scandal Signals A Crisis Of Australian Democracy by Professor Carl Rhodes for New Matilda