FSA to fine fund managers for violating rules

As per the rules, investors’ money should only be used for trade execution and research.

New Statesman
Photograph: Getty Images.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is planning to impose fine on asset managers using investors’ money to pay for access to chief executive officers (CEOs) after finding that some are spending tens of millions of pounds annually on corporate access.

FSA comments came after the Financial Times (FT) reported that asset managers are paying brokers up to $20,000 an hour to meet CEOs of their corporate clients.

In its analysis, the FSA found 15 asset managers utilising client commissions that were hard to justify. Most of them covered payments for corporate access, alongside smaller sums for access to market data.

Raising an idea to impose fines for fund managers for violation of rules, Ed Harley, head of asset management supervision at the FSA, said: “There is an awful lot of clients’ money being used here and it has to be used properly.”

“When we challenged firms as to how they can justify [payments for corporate access] they couldn’t give us a coherent answer that met those criteria,” Harley added.

The European asset managers paid 29 per cent of their dealing commissions for client access in 2012 despite a 2006 ruling by the FSA, according to the Thomson Reuters Extel Survey.

Daniel Godfrey, chief executive of the Investment Management Association, has questioned why his members have to pay rents to brokers to meet company executives, but said payments out of client money should not be stigmatised per se.

“Payments for access to companies may be something you have to hold your nose to do, but maybe it is in the interests of your clients to do it,” Godfrey added.

Meanwhile, the FSA has asked 195 largest asset managers in the UK to confirm that they are managing conflicts of interest between themselves and their customers.

Last year the British regulator fined Edinburgh-based fund manager Martin Currie £3.5m for not managing a conflict of interest between clients.