FCA bans ex-Vanguard Wealth Management directors for provision of misleading SIPP declarations
The UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) today announces that it banned Peter Howson and John Butterfield from performing any regulated activity. The action stems from Howson’s and Butterfield’s roles in the submission of false and misleading information about customers’ high net worth status.
Mr Howson and Mr Butterfield, who were both directors of the now-liquidated Vanguard Wealth Management Limited, submitted the information to self-invested personal pension (SIPP) provider, James Hay. The latter had no knowledge of their misconduct.
In particular, the FCA found that Mr Howson dishonestly deceived James Hay about the high net worth status of six customers by submitting fabricated information, including fabricating figures for fictitious properties.
Between 26 February 2014 and 21 November 2014, Mr Howson also dishonestly submitted 27 high net worth declarations in which he falsely claimed to have seen evidence of the customers’ net worth. In addition, in July 2013 and April 2014, Mr Howson dishonestly submitted false information relating to his own financial circumstances to the SIPP provider when submitting his own applications.
The FCA found that between 6 March 2013 and 1 September 2014, Mr Butterfield submitted 48 high net worth declarations in which he falsely claimed he had seen evidence of the customers’ net worth.
To be considered high net worth, an investor had to have an annual income of £100,000 or more or hold net assets to the value of £250,000 or more (excluding the investor’s pension and primary residence).
Mr Howson and Mr Butterfield knowingly and repeatedly made these false declarations, and thus increased the number of Vanguard customers who purchased Elysian Fuels PLC shares through their James Hay SIPPs. This generated substantial fees and commissions from which Mr Howson and Mr Butterfield benefitted. Due to Mr Howson’s and Mr Butterfield’s actions, customers lost money.
Mr Howson and Mr Butterfield lack integrity and have been banned from carrying out any regulated activities, the regulator says.
Let’s note that the matters under investigation occurred mostly before July 2014. For misconduct before July 25, 2014, the FCA does not have the power to impose a penalty on an individual more than 3 years after it was put on notice of the misconduct. The law has since been changed, allowing the FCA to impose a penalty on an individual six years after it was put on notice of the misconduct, if the misconduct occurred on or after July 25, 2014.