Woodford saga: Industry believes there is light at the end of the tunnel for investors trapped in fund

FCA inquiry will not report this year

Pedro Gonçalves
clock • 4 min read
Woodford interviewed by investigators probing fund collapse
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Woodford interviewed by investigators probing fund collapse

The Financial Conduct Authority's ongoing investigation into the collapse of the Woodford Equity Income fund has been slow but investors stuck in a limbo might be closer to getting answers, according to industry experts.

In a letter to MPs, the regulator's chief executive Nikhil Rathi said officials have spoken to 14 witnesses and all key interviews are now complete.

Moira O'Neill, head of personal finance at interactive investor, said: "Today's update from the FCA is short on clarity for the investors who have already been left in at best limbo and at worst in financial misery, for two long years.

"However, it does suggest that there could be light at the end of the tunnel, at least as far as answers are concerned.

"However, those answers may be scant consolation for those who have lost their life savings. Some 14 witness interviews in (and some may raise an eyebrow it wasn't more), 30 information requests and 20,000 items of relevant material, it could yet be an uncertain and unacceptably long road ahead.

"We can only hope that after all this, it isn't just private investors who are left carrying the can."

No chance of Woodford investigation findings coming out soon, FCA admits

Leigh Day, one of the law firms representing investors in the former fund, said that as the FCA drags on this investigation, ordinary investors continue to suffer.

Boz Michalowska, on behalf of Leigh Day, said: "The FCA update into its lengthy and complex investigation of Woodford and Link has revealed it has examined over 20,000 items of relevant material from all the key parties.

"Given the scale of the investigation it is clear it will be some time before the FCA provides its conclusions and in the meantime it is the ordinary investors who have lost hard earned savings and pensions that continue to suffer."

The FCA has said it does not know when the investigation into the collapse of the Woodford Equity Income fund will end.

Michalowska added: "The Leigh Day group action is continuing and we are working on getting the best outcome for investors. If the FCA decision happens before the case goes to court, it would be of assistance.

"But we are confident in our approach of bringing a group claim against Link and making a difference to the thousands of people who invested in this fund who were entitled to expect that their money was in safe hands and managed within the FCA rules."

Leigh Day has sent a Letter Before Action (LBA) to Link Fund Solutions Limited (Link), and is expecting a response by 7 June. The firm is already acting on behalf of more than 10,000 clients.

This is the first formal legal step in the group legal action on behalf of investors in the Woodford Equity Income fund against Link, the authorised corporate director in charge of the fund. 

The FCA investigation is focused on the behaviours of Woodford and Link Fund Solutions and whether they acted in the interests of all of its investors by reducing the liquidity of the fund.

Ryan Hughes, head of active portfolios at AJ Bell, said: "The update today from the FCA to the Treasury Select Committee on the investigation into the Woodford debacle seems to show that the investigation is moving forwards, albeit maybe not quite at the pace that many would be hoping for.

"It's interesting to note that the FCA says that all key interviews have been completed and they are now working through over 20,000 pieces of material in relation to the fund and its demise."

'No chance': Answers needed as industry reacts to Woodford's slated return to fund management

Hughes added: "Clearly, this is a large and complex investigation that involves many different aspects and the FCA will want to ensure that every element of it is thoroughly investigated.

"As such, it seems likely that it will be some time before any report is complete and therefore it looks as if investors in the Woodford fund will still have many questions unanswered over two years after the fund initially suspended.

"For many, this is a process that is taking too long but at the same time, it's vital that for credibility and confidence in the investment industry, that the investigation looks into every aspect so that we don't have the same mistakes happening again."

In the letter to the Treasury Select Committee, Rathi said it is too early to say whether further action will be taken against the fund or its bosses.

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