ALEX BRUMMER: Andrew Bailey could have protected Woodford victims

The failure of City regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to fully get to grips with the Woodford scandal and all of those who have profited at the expense of hapless investors is reprehensible.

Ultimately, the person who should have brought an earlier end to the abuse of investors is the FCA chief executive Andrew Bailey.

As the person chosen by the Chancellor Sajid Javid to be the next governor of the Bank of England, Bailey has put himself beyond reproach.

Sleeping watchdog: Andrew Bailey and the FCA should have acted faster to protect savers and cannot escape blame for the savings catastrophe of our age

Few people want to find themselves on the wrong side of the person about to become the most powerful figure in UK finance.

Shameless John McDonnell, who helped drive Labour over an electoral cliff, suggests Bailey’s appointment be put on hold until the Woodford affair has been probed. Having McDonnell against him is the kind of bankrupt critic Bailey can endure.

There is so much wrong in the whole way this disgrace has been handled.

Link, the authorised corporate director (ACD), should be independent and act in the best interests of the hundreds of thousands of savers in Woodford Equity Income.

Instead, it is part of a cosy conspiracy which should have been dismantled a long time ago.

Savers (including this writer) should feel outraged that Link is paid directly by the fund manager for its services, and continued to take fees even though the flagship fund has been suspended since June of last year.

It was paid from the £8million of fees that Woodford collected before he was sacked.

Equally unconscionable is Link’s decision to wind-up Woodford Equity Income rather than sack Neil Woodford much earlier on and bring in new managers who could have restored confidence. That would have given investors who wanted to sit things out the chance of recovery.

One suspects pressure for early wind-up came from Kent County Council, which triggered the crisis in the first place when it sought to withdraw £250million all in one go. 

The casual way in which Link informed investors last week that they will have to wait until January 30, 2020, for some money back, having originally promised notification on January 15, also is outrageous.

Link failed to smell a rat and notify investors when Woodford was up to his dark arts, dumping unwanted holdings in the former Woodford Patient Investment Trust (now managed by Schroders).

It kept quiet publicly when Woodford claimed stocks shifted to the Guernsey stock exchange were quoted when the market was moribund. As for Hargreaves Lansdown it exposed one quarter of its clients to extreme danger.

Woodford must take blame for rubbish stock picking and taking a £14million dividend last year while clients suffered hardship. 

Bailey and the FCA should have acted faster to protect savers and cannot escape blame for the savings catastrophe of our age.

Low flying

Less than a year has passed since a consortium headed by Virgin Atlantic rescued Flybe. No one wants to see another UK carrier driven into liquidation following the collapses of Thomas Cook and Monarch. 

Airlines are like banks. The moment weakness is shown, there is a run on bookings, and cash is withheld by credit card intermediaries who stand between the brand on the card and the airline.

Flybe feeds into regions which Boris Johnson would like to help. Not least is Belfast, where the PM spent Monday, as are locations such as Newquay, an hour away from London by air and five hours by train. 

When Virgin, along with Stobart Air and private equity outfit Cyrus Capital, bailed Flybe out for £2.2million last year seeing off a rival offer, this paper thought that investors made the right choice. 

Virgin has bags of experience running regional airlines in the US and Australia and could use Flybe as a feeder for its global routes.

That the three musketeers want out so quickly tells us all we need to know about the short-termism of British business.

War heroes

The real winner from the Oscar box office receipts from the US is creative Britain.

The Sam Mendes Best Picture nominee 1917, filmed in England and Scotland, earned £28million on its first weekend on general release, more than double that of Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, also filmed in the UK.

Disney won’t be too concerned. US Star Wars takings so far have reached £368million.




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