Investor Event

Woodford: What Happens Next? – Webinar Report

This is an official ShareSoc News Item written by ShareSoc Director Cliff Weight.

942 registered for ShareSoc’s webinar with 684 attending. Wow! Our biggest webinar ever and possibly the biggest webinar of its kind.

Also, we now have 1,465 members of our Woodford Campaign. With these sorts of numbers we can pack much more of a punch with the FCA, Government and Hargreaves Lansdown. The Campaign has socially responsible aims of making the investment world a better place. It very much fits in with our ethos of using the law to get redress for those who lost money they should not have done, of holding to account wrongdoers and sending a very strong warning shot to any others not to offend.

Mail on Sunday personal finance editor Jeff Prestridge kicked off the webinar with a lively passionate review of what had happened and what needs to change. His was a journalist’s perpective and resonated with the average investor. He emphasised how much he appreciated people’s views and urged listeners to get in contact with him, his email is Jeff.Prestridge@mailonsunday.co.uk

The expert view was provided by Alan Miller, an experienced fund manager, who has watched with dismay what happened at Woodford. His slides of the liquidity of WEIF and other funds highlighted huge differences and suggested Link, The FCA and Grant Thornton were asleep at the wheel.

Both Jeff and Alan were asked if Link were reckless. Jeff said it was an irrefutable fact that Link failed in its duties and did not protect the best interests of investors. The investment strategy was not suitable for an open ended fund if there were to be a run on the fund – which there was, with large withdrawals for years. He said Woodford recklessly exceeded his limits. Alan also thought Link was reckless: the scandal was hugely damaging to the industry and the FCA needs to do a proper investigation to identify the lessons that need to be learnt from what went wrong.

Cliff Weight reviewed the 4 claims, explained the difficulties of the Hargreaves case and getting funding for it, and why ShareSoc chose to endorse the Leigh Day claim against Link.

By a happy co-incidence, Leigh Day had on 27 September launched proceedings in the High Court against Link. So Boz, the Leigh Day Partner leading their case, took us through the claim and what happens next. It was a detailed review, too detailed for me to summarise here, but you can listen to the webinar recording to hear the full details. Sadly it might not be until 2024 until the case reaches the Court. Boz would like to settle earlier but Link have appointed Magic Circle (i.e. very expensive) legal firm Clifford Chance to defend them.

We had a dozen pre-submitted questions and 85 on the night. Mark Northway ably chaired the Q&A session which he allowed to run over the intended 6.30 finish – he eventually called a halt at 6.50pm with still over 390 listening in.

Link have refused to disclose the names of all the investors to ShareSoc, so we cannot write to them and ask them to join the claim. So far, less than 10% of the potential 270,000 WEIF claimants have registered with any of the 4 claims. Link’s refusal is an outrage and ShareSoc will be writing to the Minister, the FCA and others highlighting the need to change the law. For some bizarre reason OIECs do not have to supply the shareholder register, unlike quoted companies when CA2006 S316 and S793 makes the register available to those who have a proper purpose.

We invited the FCA to speak and answer questions and they declined. We will write to them asking for a meeting to explain the learning points from this webinar, the need for them to publish their report into Woodford promptly, the need for a full independent review of what went wrong and lessons learned, and the changes to legislation required to stop this happening again.

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