Final curtain The taxman is coming for your foreign assets
needs to hold itself to much higher standards. The regulator can’t be publishing misinformation – people rely on it.”
Gilbert West, of Falmouth, Cornwall, lost £44,275 to fraudsters in 2016 when he invested his pension in a company that purported to be Horseshoe Credit Union.
The retired publican, 69, had seen an advert online and wanted to establish whether the firm was legitimate, so cross-referenced the firm’s details with the FCA register. It stated that the firm was authorised and active, despite the fact that the legitimate Horseshoe Credit Union had been dissolved in 2012. Instead fraudsters were using the firm’s details to steal money.
They were able to do this because the FCA had failed to update its register to warn that the firm was no longer trading. If it had done so, Mr West would have been able to tell that those purporting to be Horseshoe were, in fact, not legitimate. The incorrect information had been listed on the register for more than four years.
Mr West’s pension had been taken by conmen who then left the country, according to the police, leaving no prospect of the money being recovered. He described his experience as a “nightmare”.
He said: “This money was my lump sum pension. All I wanted was somewhere to invest it. I did all my due diligence and checked the firm’s credentials. It’s not that I put my cash somewhere without checking.”
He complained directly to the watchdog, which upheld the complaint but said it accepted no liability for the loss. It offered him a meagre £150 in compensation for its slow response to the complaint, but nothing for the error itself.
Mr West described this offer as “insulting” and escalated his grievance to the Complaints Commissioner. In a scathing ruling it said the regulator’s “serious failings” had contributed to Mr West’s financial loss.
The commissioner, Antony Townsend, said: “This was more than a simple oversight. The record clearly shows that there was an awareness
of the situation, but no effective action was taken until your complaint was lodged. Worse, the records I have studied give me no confidence that the responsible departments understand the seriousness of the FCA’s failings.”
While the commissioner said the regulator should make a substantial compensation payment, he did not specify how much. The FCA then offered £22,138, just half the amount Mr West lost as a result of the scam, which the commissioner said was reasonable.
Mr West said: “The FCA knew for four years that this company had been dissolved but did nothing. It’s unbelievable. Every single investor in the country looks at the register – how many others on there are wrong?”
It is difficult to establish the exact number of fraudsters who have been able to take advantage of the FCA’s lax record keeping.
When asked by this newspaper, the regulator was unable to say how many other people had lost money because of its failings. It also could not establish how many people had complained lained to it about misleading information being provided on n the register.
The FCA said there here were 58,000 firms s listed on its register and d that ensuring this information was accurate was a priority. It admitted ed that its handling of Mr West’s case had ad been “unacceptable” ble” and said it had taken steps to ensure such problems proble would not arise in future. futu The Horseshoe Horsesh case and the FCA’s response respo to it confirm Mr Townsend’s Tow earlier warnings warning that the watchdog had shown s a “lack of empathy” when faced with complaints. com He said it was w clear that some staff within the watchdog w did not understand the importance of keeping k the register registe up to date. Mr West We has been left nursing a loss of tens of thousands of pounds. His only remaining option would be to pursue legal action against the watchdog, but he is unwilling to do so because of the costs involved. He said the FCA was “not fit for purpose”.
Nicky Morgan MP, chair of the Treasury Committee, said it was “concerning” that the regulator had information it did not act on.
She added: “This is not the first case of inaccurate information on the register. The committee will no doubt raise this issue with the FCA during its next evidence session later this year.”
Gilbert West lost £44,275 to scammers ers