The representative of 11,600 victims of a “mini-bond” scandal walked out of an impromptu meeting on Friday with the head of the UK’s financial watchdog, accusing him of a lack of contrition.
Grant Walker, who lost a six-figure sum when London Capital & Finance collapsed earlier this year, said that Andrew Bailey, the Financial Conduct Authority’s chief executive, did not seem to care about victims, and accused the FCA of inaction.
Mr Walker was one of several representatives of victims’ groups of mis-selling scandals who protested outside the FCA’s headquarters in east London on Friday. As well as LCF victims, they represented groups including small businesses that accuse Lloyds Banking Group, Clydesdale, Barclays and HSBC of ripping them off. Some elderly victims have died in the process of fighting their claims, while others have taken their lives after losing their homes, livelihoods or life savings.
While their complaints range from unregulated mini-bonds — which are high-interest loans to small businesses — to interest-rate hedging products, forgery and asset-stripping, they all accuse the FCA of negligence and say it has failed to protect ordinary consumers.
The protesters say the system is stacked against them, claiming contract law is written to favour the banks, which can afford expensive lawyers, and accuse the FCA of not holding to account the financial firms it regulates.
The FCA counters that much of what the victims complain about is outside its remit, which is up to lawmakers to set. Small-business lending, for instance, remains unregulated. Mini-bonds are also unregulated, although it does oversee the marketing of the products, as it did in LCF’s case. Mr Bailey repeated on Friday that the system governing what is regulated was too complicated for the ordinary customer to understand. The government so far has rebuffed calls to simplify it.
The LCF scandal has prompted a criminal and regulatory probe, as well as an independent inquiry into the FCA’s own actions and whether it missed red flags.
“I would like to think the reason we’re having this conversation is because I do care,” Mr Bailey told Mr Walker during the 90-minute meeting, where protesters were ushered into the FCA building from the December cold and offered tea and sandwiches.
The protest threatened to pile yet more pressure on the FCA over its actions, and Mr Bailey in particular, who is one of the contenders to replace Mark Carney as the next governor of the Bank of England.
“People have committed suicide, that is your legacy Mr Bailey,” shouted one of the protesters outside.
While emotions ran high, the meeting was generally well-mannered and several protesters thanked Mr Bailey for meeting them. He was even persuaded to join them for a candlelight vigil for victims who have committed suicide.