London Capital & Finance: what happened and when?

London Capital & Finance logo

After London Capital & Finance recently admitted that it was insolvent and put itself into administration, bringing a three-year career of persistent misselling to an end, now seems a good time to look back upon its short life – and what the FCA did about it during that time.

July 2015: An obscure company called Sales Aid Finance (England) Limited renames itself London Capital & Finance, despite being based in Tunbridge Wells, about 20 miles away from Greater London’s outskirts. This appears to have signalled the launch of its new business model.

October 2015: A member of the public asks the Moneysavingexpert forum about LCF after coming across them while Googling for “investment ideas”. The forum is unanimous in advising them not to invest.

November 2015: A prominent financial adviser, after being asked about LCF by one of his clients, writes to the FCA to warn about their activities.

2016-19 (and ongoing): The FCA continues to expend hundreds of man hours a week on implementing the Mifid II directive, dubbed by one compliance expert by far the worst piece of financial regulation ever in Europe”. Mifid disclosure requirements are so bad that the FCA itself advises firms that they should issue “additional explanation” when the documents that Mifid forces them to issue are misleading. All of this is for a directive that the UK no longer has any good reason to follow once it leaves the EU.

June 2016: After an application process which is likely to have taken at least six months, the Financial Conduct Authority approves London Capital & Finance (for corporate finance business only; its loan notes remain unregulated).

By authorising its business, the FCA allows LCF to target the ISA transfer market, using the new Innovative Finance ISA wrapper – notwithstanding that LCF’s bonds are not eligible for ISA status – as well as giving it the added cachet that comes from being able to display “Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority” on your website.

Early 2017: The FCA spends £60,000 on a new logo (plus an unknown number of worker hours changing all its stationery). The new logo is identical to the old one, but swaps around the maroon/white colour scheme, ruining the genuinely clever spotlight effect in the old logo.

March 2017: Drew J of the Damn Lies & Statistics blog adds another complaint to the FCA’s pile of warnings against London Capital & Finance.

August 2017: The FCA pays an undisclosed amount to hang out with Arnold Schwarzenegger and get him to front a series of ads telling the two people who had PPI and haven’t yet made a claim to make one.

December 2017: Bond Review is founded and, in our first ever post, issues a warning about the high risk nature of London Capital & Finance bonds.

February 2018: London Capital & Finance finally files its annual accounts for 2017 four months late, having used the accounting-period-shortening loophole twice in a row.

Its auditors, Ernst & Young, do not identify any concerns or issues with the accounts, and state that they have not identified any misstatements in the Strategic Report or the Directors’ Report. The directors’ report states that LCF is a going concern, and makes no suggestion that this is dependent on continuing future investment.

March 2018: The FCA publishes a collection of 28 essays on “Transforming Culture in Financial Services” from “thought leading academics, industry leaders, international regulators and change practitioners”. Leading figures from centres of excellence such as the University of Greenwich pontificate on subjects such as “Creating a culture of learning through speak-up arrangements”, The permafrost problem: from bad apples to excellent sheep” and “A New Dawn for Cultural Transformation as Organisations Make Stakeholder Interests a Reality”.

July 2018: The FCA launches a consultation into why most people still don’t switch their cash accounts for an extra 0.5% a year.

October 2018: The standard six-month deadline for London Capital & Finance to file its April 2018 accounts expires. London Capital & Finance again deploys the accounting-period-shortening trick to avoid being officially overdue.

December 2018: The FCA finally wakes up, orders LCF to remove all its marketing materials, followed swiftly by a second order to freeze all its assets including its bank accounts.

January 2019: LCF places itself into administration, stating that it is unable to raise money from new investors, and is insolvent.

Footnote

The only thing worse than realising that your spouse has been cheating on you for years is realising that you were literally the only person who didn’t know about it, and that you’re the laughing stock of the whole town. Unfortunately this is the reality that LCF investors are waking up to.

Some of the facts about London Capital & Finance, such as the lending to companies closely linked to LCF directors, have only come to light since the administration. However, it was always clear right from day one (i.e. late 2015) that LCF bonds were extremely high risk products that, like any unregulated loan to a small startup, carried a high risk of loss by their very nature. That risk has come to pass.

As for those facts that have only come to light in the last few weeks, they were never hidden; they have been public knowledge for months available via Companies House, but it took the FCA orders to spark enough interest in people with enough expertise to uncover them.

As always the investors are last to find out. And the cost of the FCA’s failure to act on LCF’s misselling before stands at anything up to £225 million of life savings, depending on what is eventually recovered in the administration.

 

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8 thoughts on “London Capital & Finance: what happened and when?

  1. Hi there
    I am totally devastedby this, as I invested £40,000 of my inheritance for my pension income so I can look after 3 elderly friends of 96,89 and 84.
    I still have had no paperwork from the administrators or any personal contact regarding my investment, I have to keep going into the internet.
    Why are they not contacting us personally as investors?
    Regards
    AJLC

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  2. You should have received an email when LCF went into administration. The next time S&W will be in contact with investors directly is when they submit their initial proposal, which would typically be around eight weeks after the administrators are appointed (i.e. end of March).

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  3. I also invested in this company and thought they were very professional. I looked at all the reviews left by existing customers and they were all excellent. I have two bonds and two ISAs holding full allowance in each one. This is also my life savings which I was hoping to live on for maybe next thirty years due my pension also being very low. They told me FCA had now approved LCF to start selling ISAs so I assumed the money would be protected, same as the bonds. At my age when you speak to a financial advisor at a recognised financial company and not some bloke working from home, you assume everything is OK and above board. How wrong can you be. I can only wait now for the final outcome and pray every night that it will be OK.

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  4. At my age when you speak to a financial advisor at a recognised financial company and not some bloke working from home, you assume everything is OK and above board.

    Which recognised financial company were you advised by?

    If you were advised by an FCA-regulated financial adviser you are in a very different position to most LCF investors as you have a claim against that adviser.

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  5. I’m a financial adviser working from home, honest as the day as long and would be much richer if i worked at lining my pockets more than the clients I can assure you of that. Just remember flash offices, advertising, staff, brochures all have to be paid for….and you can guess who does the paying. The client.

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  6. FCA are a complete waste of time.I sold my house and borrowed some money from a company who had been investigated by the FCA in 2014 I later found out.Took 2 years to conclude company had not proven how they would finance these loans and in 2016 told to stop trading but completely ignored by company owners and continued to trade until 2018 ripping customers off until the FCA reopened the investigation in April 2018 and issued restraint order after arresting the owners and releasing them pending further investigation in August.As of this date still no news and I am 80K out of pocket.FCA are rude and do not care less about their customers after spending 5 hours with me in May 2018 and I provided them with correspondence and emails which should have helped them close the case alot quicker instead of waiting for months and doing nothing.

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  7. I cannot disagree that there is a high risk of lending to any small startup, but isn’t that risk diminished in proportion by the number of loans when stated (by LC&F) to be of hundreds, as is the case for possibly thousands of their investors?

    Now factor in that their marketing didn’t use the term startup but the more trusted term SME (Small – Medium Enterprises) – OK – same thing but a clever marketing ploy, nevertheless. Also factor in that same marketing stated that due to large number of loans, any one default would be insignificant among the hundreds of other good loans, and that in fact NONE HAD defaulted.

    More? Yes, indeed. Not only was it extremely unlikely for any defaults to lose investor’s money, as borrowers were restricted to a maximum of 75% of their assets (which had been verified by LC&F) AND the total value of borrower assets was 256% of investor loan value.

    It doesn’t give THAT information at Companies House, and is the very reason FCA exists, to verify for themselves that all marketing material lives up to its promises, BEFORE allowing any investment organisation to publish it.

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  8. I cannot disagree that there is a high risk of lending to any small startup, but isn’t that risk diminished in proportion by the number of loans when stated (by LC&F) to be of hundreds, as is the case for possibly thousands of their investors?

    Only if a professional due diligence report, produced by corporate finance practitioners working on behalf of (i.e. paid by) the potential investor, verifies that those hundreds of loans actually exist. The same goes for all other claims by LCF including the ones about no defaults and high loan-to-value ratios.

    Without independent professional due diligence, anything the person asking for your money claims is worthless. Rice-Davies risk modelling applies. In the absence of verification, the default position stands, that a loan to an unlisted micro-cap startup is an inherently extremely high risk investment.

    Regardless of how long LCF’s underlying borrowers had been in business, London Capital & Finance itself started business in earnest in 2015 and was therefore a startup at the time of its collapse by any definition.

    It doesn’t give THAT information at Companies House, and is the very reason FCA exists, to verify for themselves that all marketing material lives up to its promises, BEFORE allowing any investment organisation to publish it.

    That’s not how the UK regulatory system works (or any financial system in modern economies worldwide). FCA-authorised businesses are responsible for verifying marketing material before publication. If it is non-compliant the FCA takes action after the fact. The FCA doesn’t have anything close to the resources required to verify every financial promotion before publication.

    The question here is whether the FCA should have acted on LCF’s misleading marketing material and sourcing of investment from non-HNW/sophisticated investors at some point between first being made aware of it in 2015, and December 2019. Not whether it should have shut down LCF before it even began, which was impossible.

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