Blackmore Bond UPDATE – FCA are culpable for all losses

On April 28th Michael O’Dwyer published an article in the Telegraph regarding the Blackmore Bond and the fact that The FCA was warned by me, three years prior to its collapse, that the marketing and promotion of this bond involved false and/or misleading representations.

In the article The FCA Press Office themselves made disturbing representations that they knew to be false and/or misleading.

They stated:

“Neither Blackmore Bond PLC nor the minibonds they sold are regulated by the FCA. As a result of steps taken by the FCA, Northern Provident Investments, which had approved Blackmore’s financial promotions for communication to the public, withdrew its approval, preventing the promotion of the minibonds.”

They further added:

“In a separate FCA intervention, Amyma Ltd’s website was taken down. Amyma Ltd no longer has permissions to conduct regulated activities. The FCA continues to monitor these matters closely.”

FOR THE RECORD AND AVOIDANCE OF DOUBT, these ‘actions’ they refer to were taken by The FCA in June 2019 and September 2019 respectively, more than two years after my reports.

Why did they take these actions, if what The FCA say is true, that these products and the way they were marketing and promoting them was outside of the FCA’s scope or regulatory perimeter?

On what grounds did The FCA take these actions?

Why did they not take these actions following my reports in March 2017?

After O’Dwyer’s article, I tried numerous times to have The FCA Press Office qualify their statements. They refused, claiming that they never answer questions from the public, only journalists.

This despite their false representations to O’Dwyer being intended for the public.

I then forwarded my questions direct to Mark Steward, Head of FCA Enforcement and Oversight.

Steward also refused to answer my questions. I therefore broke the list of questions down in to subsets, so as to submit as separate Freedom Of Information requests, and submitted the following as the first of these:

FOI REQUEST 

“In the Telegraph article by Michael O’Dwyer the FCA state:“Neither Blackmore Bond PLC nor the minibonds they sold are regulated by the FCA.”
Can you please explain why this was never mentioned or explained to me at the time of, or at any time subsequent to, my reporting of the Blackmore Bond to the FCA in March 2017?”

I added:
“It would not have involved any breach of data protection, or FSMA or other rule the FCA likes to hide behind, to tell me this conduct fell beyond the FCA regulatory framework.
For the record, had the FCA done so, I would have seen to it that this was reported to a different authority, regulator or law enforcement agency AT THAT TIME!”

On July 6th I received the FCA’s response.

(Please note that this has been forwarded to the administrators of Blackmore)

“we can confirm that they (FCA records and files) do not hold a record of the FCA mentioning or explaining to any member of the public in March 2017 that Blackmore and the minibonds they sold are not regulated by the FCA.”

That part I knew, having received no word from The FCA to that effect after I made my reports.

The FCA continued:

“In March 2017, the FCA was already aware of Blackmore and was considering whether it was carrying on regulated activities without FCA authorisation, in breach of section 19 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (“FSMA”). The FCA had not then formed any view about Blackmore’s activities.”

I would assume that they are referring to my reports, but they avoid specifically saying so, and what they state next, gives me cause to believe they are NOT referring to my reports.

“In May 2017, the FCA formed the view that Blackmore was not carrying on regulated activities without FCA authorisation because its activities fell within the exclusion in Article 18 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Regulated Activities) Order 2001 permitting small companies to issue equity and debt securities without being authorised. Further, from March 2017, NCM Fund Services Ltd, an authorised firm, approved the content of Blackmore’s financial promotions.”

In my professional opinion, this statement renders the FCA culpable for all losses suffered by consumers that ‘invested’ in the Blackmore Bond after March 2017, and CERTAINLY after May 2017.

Here is why:

  1. The FCA state that in May 2017 that it determined, following investigation, that Blackmore was not carrying on regulated activities without FCA authorisation, and that therefore its activities fell outside of The FCA regulatory perimeter.
  2. I do not therefore see how the March 2017 reports that The FCA refer to here can be my March 2017 reports.
  3. My reports included:

a) The fact that Amyma was telling consumers that their “FCA authorisation was being processed”.

MY POSITION: You cannot state, imply or infer FCA authorisation for your firm and the products, when marketing or promoting said products, when the product and/or firm is not FCA authorised. This falsely implies protection, and makes it very much within The FCA regulatory perimeter.

b) The fact that Amyma were promoting the Blackmore Bond with GUARANTEED annual returns (of 9.9%), and with the principal investment GUARANTEED.

MY POSITION: This can only ever be entirely false, or at best entirely misleading. There is no such thing as a ‘GUARANTEED’ and therefore RISK FREE investment. And furthermore, The FCA stated that in March 2017 and FCA authorised and regulated firm had approved Blackmore’s financial promotions. There is zero chance that such GUARANTEED and risk free statements could have been included within a promotion approved by an FCA regulated firm.

THEREFORE, such marketing renders it in breach of the Promotion approved by The FCA authorised and regulated firm, and therefore brings that which I reported squarely within The FCA regulatory perimeter.

c) The fact that Amyma was telling consumers “I’ll put you down as a sophisticated investor”. They were doing so having made all of the GUARANTEED statements that will have obviously tempted consumers to ‘invest’, and making it appear that they were doing the consumer a favour in not letting them miss out on this risk free opportunity with high returns.

MY POSITION: The moment that any firm ‘manipulates’ or ‘falsifies’ the sophistication status of a consumer or ‘investor’, as Amyma were clearly doing, within their marketing, promotion and sale of this Blackmore Bond, brings it within The FCA regulatory perimeter.

d) The fact that everything within my report represented multiple ‘flags’ as to criminality and/or mis-selling and/or targeting of vulnerable and non-sophisticated customers. There was zero chance that this Bond would not fail, and 100% certainty from myself, and my associates who also witnessed everything that I reported, that anyone that invested would lose some or all of their money.

MY POSITION: It is simply not possible for the regulator not to have classified what I was reporting as conduct that fell within The FCA regulatory perimeter, and simply not possible for The FCA not to have identified any of these flags, all of which should have alerted them to criminality or wrongdoing.

4. However, The FCA concluded in May 2017 that there were no concerns and/or that everything was beyond The FCA perimeter. It is not possible if they had read my reports and investigated them.

5. Furthermore, they never once contacted me or my associates for our testimony or for further evidence, further demonstrating they undertook little or no investigation.

THEREFORE, the FCA either:

a) Ignored my reports altogether,

and/or

b) The full details within my reports were not properly escalated to the relevant persons or departments.

and/or

c) The FCA, having deemed the conduct within my report beyond their regulatory perimeter, did NOT escalate the reports to the relevant law enforcement or other agencies within whose scope it did fall.

In all scenarios, having confirmed that they produced a judgment of this nature in May 2017, that is entirely inconsistent with the facts and the content of my reports, it renders The FCA entirely responsible for all losses suffered by investors in the Blackmore Bond.

It furthermore demonstrates that The FCA Press Office, and those that fed the Press Office these statements, made what they knew to be knowingly false representations to Michael O’Dwyer. False representations that were specifically intended to mislead the public.

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