June 18, 2019 / 11:14 AM / 6 months ago

Investor lobbyist wants review of UK financial regulator after Woodford suspension

LONDON (Reuters) - Retail investor lobbyist Gina Miller’s wealth management firm has asked the UK government to commission an independent review of Britain’s financial regulator after the suspension of Neil Woodford’s flagship fund, it said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller addresses the audience at the Liberal Democrats Conference in Brighton, Britain, September 17, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

Miller, who in 2016 sued the British government over triggering Brexit and has been a champion of retail investors over issues like fees, has previously criticised the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority over its handling of European financial regulations.

Woodford’s heavy investment in unlisted stocks and those listed only in Guernsey has come under scrutiny from the regulator after his 3.7 billion pound ($4.6 billion) fund was frozen on June 3 as it was unable to meet redemption requests.

That has left investors unclear as to when they will get their money back.

“As evidenced by the Woodford saga, it is a disgrace that the FCA has not changed rules allowing companies ‘seeking’ a listing within the next 12 months or companies listed on exchanges, even if rarely traded, to be somehow treated as if they were listed,” Miller’s firm SCM Direct said.

The UK government should “launch an independent root and branch review of the FCA”, it said in a statement, adding that it wanted “to end the dismal treatment of UK retail fund investors”.

Miller said the FCA should ban funds from which investors can redeem daily or weekly from investing any further money into unlisted or illiquid stocks or directly-held properties.

More than 18 billion pounds in assets under management in property funds were suspended for several weeks shortly after the Brexit referendum in 2016 as investors rushed for the exits.

The FCA declined to comment. The UK finance ministry did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Miller also said whistleblowers should be financially rewarded, and that UK mutual funds should have “truly independent boards”.

Reporting by Carolyn Cohn; Editing by Jan Harvey

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