We received very strongly positive feedback from the 832 registrants to this webinar. A recording of the webinar is available here.
The Missing 90%
The webinar highlighted the Enigma of the missing 90% of claimants. We think up to 270,000 investors have yet to claim and we plan to issue a press release highlighting this and some of the points below:
- Nearly 300,000 investors lost money in the Woodford Equity Income Fund (WEIF)and now have an opportunity to claim compensation, but so far less than 30,000 (10%) have joined one of the 4 legal claims against the fund’s Authorised Corporate Director, Link Fund Solutions.
- Up to 270,000 more may be eligible to join a claim, but where are they? So far, approximately 13,000 have registered with Leigh Day’s claim; 7,500 with Harcus Parker; and about 3,000 each for RGL and Slater & Gordon.
- According to ShareSoc, the value of registered claims is presently c£200m but could rise to £1bn if those yet to register were to do so.
- ShareSoc’s Woodford Webinar – The Cavalry is Coming (19th July 2022) demonstrated that the claim against Link is realistic and that it’s making progress. It’s championed by two top legal firms, supported by two litigation funders and if Link cannot pay the claim in full then there is a safety net in the form of the FSCS, which may compensate the claimants, if the claims are successful at Court and then Link defaults.
- So, why are claimants not joining up?
- Disinformation: e.g. “if you invest and lose money, it is your own fault” – NO! This is wrong! Investors expect their money to be safely looked after and invested according to the regulations and prospectus. In this case, it is argued that did not happen and investors have a perfectly legitimate right to seek compensation.
- Mainstream media coverage is largely ignoring the opportunity to claim compensation. This affects huge numbers of people and the press should get on board in making sure the message gets out there.
- They are not being advised by their brokers and investment platforms that there is an opportunity to claim compensation. The suggestion has been floated that many of the missing 90% may be customers of Hargreaves Lansdown who heavily promoted the Woodford funds.
Proceedings of the Webinar
Mark Northway introduced the session and acted as compere.
- Robin Powell gave an introduction to what went wrong, the problems of active management (are active managers just lucky ones or do they have real skill; does their skill persist over decades for which people invest?), why people have not claimed (58% were not aware they could claim compensation, 4% thought it was not British/ bad form to make a claim), why the FCA have yet to report (he surmised that the FCA are hoping the story may just fade away).
- Meriel Hodgson-Teall, a solicitor from Leigh Day, gave an excellent account of the claim, why it is a good one and the next steps.
- Baroness Altmann, a former Pensions Minister, with over 40 years’ experience in pensions, savings and consumer protection in later life spoke next. She is a leading UK expert who specialises in championing ordinary people and social justice and gave her views on the Woodford failures. She said:
- Action taken by Link, the FCA and others was too little too late. There was too much reliance and reassurance on limits and rules, which proved ineffective.
- There were clear warning signs. Red flags were there, but no action and no pro-active preventative action. This questions whether the FCA has adequate powers to look after investors investing in reputable firms.
- WEIF was set up in 2014 to be liquid. But subsequently he, Woodford, and Link sought to give the fund the appearance of having adequate liquidity by listing firms on the Guernsey Stock Exchange, reissuing shares in companies pre IPO and possibly the £70m transfer of shares to WPCT fell into this too.
- Link failed to do its job. It seemed not to recognise what its job was. And when it did act it suspended and then closed the fund resulting in forced sales at poor prices. It did not pursue nor seem to properly investigate a good fund/bad fund concept or a sale of the illiquid assets to WPCT.
- Hargreaves Lansdown. The Baroness was baffled – why did Hargreaves keep WEIF in the Wealth List and Best Buy lists for so long? Data showed that 73% invested in WEIF via Hargreaves and only 5% via the advice of professional advisers. This questioned the business model and the incentives for Hargreaves to support WEIF long after it should have done.
- What was the FCA doing? Did it not know that consumers were relying on best buy lists? The FCA looked at Woodford liquidity but failed to act? Why was the FCA not pro-active? Why were the liquidity limits not strictly adhered to?
- Baroness Altmann concluded that legislative change was needed to fix the FCA problems and to ensure in future that fines could be made on a timely basis of a size that would deter future would-be offenders.
- Cliff Weight explained the 4 claims and their relative merits.
Q&A and Session Recording
This was followed by a Q&A session. 123 questions were submitted. Many were answered and we plan to publish responses to the others on the ShareSoc Woodford Campaign Forum.
Those wishing for more information can watch the recording of the webinar. Meeting Recording: https://youtu.be/of9z3o1W3r8
The key timings of when speakers start speaking are:
00:05:11 - Robin Powell 00:22:38 - Meriel Hodgson-Teall 00:40:09 - Baroness Altmann 01:02:01 - Cliff Weight 01:07:54 - Q&A.
Attendees were asked to give feedback and this was extremely positive. The consensus was for another update webinar in about 6 months or at another meaningful point in time.
Notable feedback from the webinar (these were specific comments from attendees, who gave their names, but we are publishing them anonymously):
- Harcus Parker and Leigh Day is greater than the sum of the two individually and makes me optimistic of a resolution. Only being able to reach 10% of the investors affected is frustrating. How many of the other 90% invested through HL? I invested through HL SIPP and also in an iWeb ISA. I don’t recall HL emailing me to advise the possibility of redress through legal action. I guess that they cannot/will not provide client contact details to the Woodford Campaign.
- Could they (HL) be persuaded to circulate their customers as a responsible SIPP provider to make them aware that legal address may be available, without specifically naming ShareSoc/Leigh Day. It is the least they should do for the damage which they helped to promote, and at minimal cost to them could improve their reputation.
- Thank you for what you are doing. The webinar was well pitched for me.
- Baroness Altman got it right when she said a lot of investors aren’t professionals and rely on information from platforms like Hargreaves’s Lansdown. I thought because Woodford was in their wealth fund it must still be good. Clearly there needs to be stronger surveillance of this area and I wait with interest to see what the FCA finally does! What are they there for? I liked Leigh Days emphasis on getting best result for small investors like me.
- Keep up the great work. I particularly thought the points about Link settling early, maybe out of court, gave me confidence that it’s not by any means a lost cause. I feel that the success of this campaign will speak volumes for future investors chances of avoiding poor services from nonchalant players, which Link and Woodford and HL are 3 prime examples. I actually paid for advice from HL. I already had WEIF in my portfolio. They kept it in there (sorry increased my holding) in 2017 and charged my for the privilege of thus advice. They refused to recognise in 2020 their wrong doing. Outrageous.
- FYI as an investing innocent, I had followed Woodford’s career in Sunday Times, and was persuaded by the enthusiasm for his independent fund launch. Also, as Baroness Altman pointed out, I assumed I was investing for the longer term and retirement.
- Speakers were excellent and also confirmed many of my own views on the situation. I worked in Financial Services for over 40 years and when investing took the HL Best Buy list as a good guide. Extremely disappointed with them but mainly with Link whose premature decision to close the fund has cost me tens of thousands and also means I cannot afford to retire for a few more years. C’est la vie but responsibility and accountability must be established so compensation is paid to investors who’ve lost out.
- This webinar went over a lot of things we already knew and discussed on previous presentations. We all know the issues we have with the FCA and yet we have had a former government minister going over it all again and telling us the problem that her government didn’t address. I think maybe the main focus of these webinars are now to attract more claimants and generate more interest in ShareSoc membership. I think a lot of people on the webinar now want to see updates on the progress of the case against Link and updates on how claims against others may be progressing.
This is an official ShareSoc News Item written by ShareSoc Director Cliff Weight.