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Fund Managers May Have Colluded on IPO Prices, FCA Says

The Financial Conduct Authority is investigating asset management firms over allegations they worked together to fix share prices in initial public offerings.

  • By Joe McGrath

The Financial Conduct Authority said Wednesday that four British asset managers may have broken the law by colluding on the pricing of initial public offerings.

The FCA has invited Artemis Investment Management, Hargreave Hale, Newton Investment Management and River & Mercantile Asset Management to discuss the U.K. regulator’s claims that in 2014 and 2015 they shared information about upcoming IPOs, according to the statement.

“The FCA believes the four firms may have broken competition law,” the FCA said. They either told their rivals the price they were planning to pay for shares sold in “one or more” IPOs, or were complicit in receiving this information, the watchdog alleged.

The knowledge-sharing may have influenced the ultimate price that investors paid for the stock offered by companies in their IPOs. The asset managers “should have been competing for shares,” the regulator said.

The news comes eight months after Gina Miller, who co-founded wealth management firm SCM Direct, told The Guardian that she had concerns over price collusion practices at some major asset management firms operating in the U.K.

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Newton Investment Management, which is owned by Bank of New York Mellon Corp., is “not in a position to comment on any actions” relating to the ongoing FCA investigation, a spokeswoman for Newton said in an emailed statement.

“Newton has been co-operating fully with the FCA and will continue to do so,” she said. “The FCA’s investigation is focused on a very small number of Newton’s U.K. equity-focused strategies which can invest in small and mid-cap UK equities.”

Newton confirmed that the regulator’s accusations against the firm are tied to two IPOs in 2014 and 2015.

A spokesman for Artemis said the asset manager would “continue to cooperate” with the FCA throughout its investigation, while a Canaccord Genuity Group spokesman said the regulator’s claims against Hargreave, which its U.K. wealth management business bought this year, was disclosed to Canaccord while it was conducting due diligence for the acquisition.

“Hargreave Hale has fully cooperated with the FCA and will be making further representations to the FCA for its review and consideration,” the Canaccord spokesman said in an emailed statement. “We note that the findings are provisional and may not necessarily lead to an infringement decision.”

River & Mercantile also said it was cooperating with the regulator and believed that the matter “does not affect any clients of the group.”

The FCA said that it will communicate with all firms involved before making a final decision over any infringement of competition law.

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