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FSCS to cover Beaufort Securities administration costs – but will investors lose money?

Investors unable to sell poorly performing shares until their assets are recovered in September

The Square Mile

The vast majority of investors in collapsed stockbroker Beaufort Securities will recover their cash and shares in full, after a recovery plan was agreed between creditors and the administrator PwC on Wednesday.

Yet some investors could still see losses as their stocks are frozen and unable to be traded.

Which? explains how much investors can expect to receive and how FSCS protection works.


Will Beaufort Securities investors get their money back?

The investments made into Beaufort are protected by ring-fencing rules, meaning the capital is being held in a separate account, awaiting release to another platform by the administrators.

But clients will be liable for the costs relating to identifying and returning their assets.

In the case of Beaufort Securities, the maximum fee for returning assets to eligible clients has been capped at £10,000 per client, meaning the vast majority of individuals will be fully covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), which protects investors to the tune of £50,000 when a regulated investment company goes bust.

PwC says that 94% of the administration costs will be covered by the FSCS. A handful of individual investors won’t be covered (likely because they are not UK residents), and the remaining losses will be borne by corporate clients, who aren’t covered by the investment protection scheme.

Though investors will be protected from the costs of Beaufort’s administration, some could still lose out as their assets will be in limbo until they are transferred to another platform in September.

Investor’s shares frozen

Mr Hamilton (name changed), retired, held around £60,000 in Beaufort Securities in cash and shares which he traded regularly. Though his administration costs will be covered by the FSCS, he is being forced to hold shares he no longer wants.

He told Which?: ‘I’d dealt with Beaufort Securities for several years, since before they changed from Hoodless Brennan. I found out because I was trying to sell some shares, and suddenly the website went blue and said they were in administration.

‘Since I’ve been unable to trade, some of my shares have gone up and some have gone down. I know one can’t predict, but one of the shares I held has now gone bust.

‘I spoke to Beaufort and tried to sell some of my shares but they said it was frozen.’

US Department of Justice brings charges

The collapse of Beaufort Securities is complicated further as it has emerged the company is being pursued by the US Department of Justice for alleged securities fraud and money laundering, in a case worth $50 million, after a lengthy FBI investigation.

US Attorney Richard P Donoghue said: ‘The defendants engaged in an elaborate multi-year scheme to defraud the investing public of millions of dollars through deceit and manipulative stock trading, and then worked to launder the fraudulent proceeds through off-shore bank accounts and the art world, including the proposed purchase of a Picasso painting.’

The FCA co-operated with the FBI, allowing Beaufort Securities to keep trading while the FBI concluded its investigation. It placed restrictions on Beaufort Securities, preventing new money being invested, and forced Beaufort to notify its customers of these restrictions, though it was unable to mention the ongoing covert FBI investigation.

Mr Hamilton told Which? he had ‘previously noticed some problems’ when Beaufort bought a brand new platform: ‘I feel I’ve been a bit thick for not acting sooner… Every time I checked my shares the the information was wrong. I kept a separate record of how my shares were performing, but when I checked against ADVFN (another financial website) some were priced for the previous day or week.

They couldn’t explain. They said they were looking into it and the site would be updated shortly but it went on for months.’

Mr Hamilton added: ‘When I later I heard reports that they were being investigated for money laundering, it was a shock to me. I certainly wouldn’t have left money in there if I’d known this was going to happen.’

How does FSCS cover work for investments?

There are two versions of the FSCS, covering savings and investments.

The protection for savings covers money in savings accounts held with banks, building societies and credit unions. Savings are protected up to £85,000, per person, per institution. That means if you hold two accounts with the same bank, you’ll only be protected up to £85,000, rather than £85,000 per account.

The scheme covering investments is more complicated, but generally provides protection up to £50,000. You’ll be covered from losses if the company you deal with goes bust, as was the case with Beaufort Securities. However, it’s important to note this protects you from costs relating to a company going bust, and won’t cover you for poorly performing investments.

That said, you may be able to make a separate claim if you were advised to buy investments that were inappropriate, based on the investment risks you were willing to take.

In the case of Beaufort Securities, an investor who was was mis-sold investments can make a second claim for poor investment advice, on top of the claim for losses caused by Beaufort’s administration.

Find out more: How do I complain about a bad financial service?

When will investors in Beaufort Securities get their money back?

It will most likely be September before investors see their money.

Following a meeting this Wednesday, PwC has said that the creditors’ committee supports the plan to return investors assets.

It aims to receive all necessary approvals in July, after which it will transfer clients’ assets to another stockbroker in September. It has not yet said which one this will be.

Why are the administration costs so high?

The case involving Beaufort Securities is complicated. PwC had originally estimated that costs could reach as much as £100 million, and the process of dissolving the company could take up to four years.

Since then, it has revised down its estimates, with the total cost potentially reaching £55 million, over two years, though investors in the platform should get their money back faster.

Russell Downs, PwC partner and joint administrator of Beaufort Securities, said these costs include: ’35 retained Beaufort staff, office space and related expenditure, alongside the IT infrastructure which is critical to support the client records. Additionally there will be the costs of the administrators and legal advisers. Finally we have included a general contingency and VAT.’

Under ring-fencing rules, if a stockbroker goes bust, clients will only be liable for costs relating to identifying and returning their assets, rather than the debts of the business itself.

The maximum £10,000 per customer means these costs will be covered by the FSCS in most cases, though some corporate clients could still be on the hook.

I’m a Beaufort Securities customer – where can I get more information?

Clients can call a helpline set up by PwC on 0800 063 9283 (or +44 20 7293 0227 if calling from outside the UK).

There is also information available on its website. The FCA has also published a Q&A for Beaufort investors on its website.

 

 

 

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