FCA faces pressure over Woodford inquiry

The investigation began in 2019 but has yet to publish any findings

MPs have called upon the government to take action over the FCA’s stalled investigation into the collapse of Neil Woodford’s investment business, unless the inquiry is handed over to an independent judge or QC.

The FCA began its investigation into the £3.7bn Woodford Equity Income Fund’s collapse in June 2019 but has yet to publish any findings, reportedly leading to concerns regarding the body’s limited remit.

Mel Stride, chair of the Commons Treasury select committee, claimed that the FCA needs to “set out” a timeframe of when the body expects the “investigation to conclude”.

He added: “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 comments follow Woodford’s announcement to the Sunday Telegraph that he is set to make a return to investment management, two years after his previous venture that left 30,000 small investors with losses totalling an estimated £1bn.

Gina Miller, the fund manager and activist, told the Guardian that it is necessary for an external investigator to be appointed to the case.

She said: “The only choice for the new head of the FCA is to hand wherever they have got to in their investigation to an independent judge or QC, and widen the scope to include the FCA.”

She added that the FCA’s “rushed” response indicates that the body is “turning a blind eye” to its lack of regulatory action towards Woodford.

Mark Stewart, director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, said: “I recognise the time taken to investigate causes frustration among those affected by a firm or fund failure and who are, understandably, looking for answers. 

“They rightly look to us to provide those answers. As a result, it is vital we investigate thoroughly and investigations are not limited at their outset.”

He added that only after analysing all the evidence can the body assess “what, if any, sanction” should be put in place.

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