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Stockbroker fined £1.2m and blocked from new clients

WH Ireland fined by Financial Conduct Authority and ordered not to take on new clients for 72 days due to market abuse failings.

Stockbroker fined £1.2m and blocked from new clients

Stockbroker WH Ireland (WHI) has been fined £1.2 million by the City watchdog and barred from taking on new clients for 72 days for failures over its systems and controls to prevent market abuse.

The fine and ban relates to failings uncovered by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the first half of 2013.

The FCA said that WH Ireland did not have the proper controls in place to prevent inside information being leaked from its corporate broking business, such as its role as a nominated adviser for a series of Alternative Investment Market stocks, to its stockbroking, investment research and market making divisions.

The company also had an inadequate policy over the shares its employees held personally, heightening the risk that staff could use inside information for their own benefit.

The watchdog flagged these concerns with WH Ireland in 2013, but found a year later that not all of its recommendations had been properly implemented.

'WH Ireland's failings were aggravated by the failure to implement adequately the... recommendations,' said Mark Steward, FCA director of enforcement and market oversight.

'It is one thing to be given a chance; for the chance not to be taken up is especially culpable.'

WH Ireland chief executive Richard Killingbeck said the issue was now resolved and highlighted that management has since been replaced.

'As the FCA has noted we have made, and continue to make, wholesale changes to our management team and our systems and controls,' said Killingbeck.

'We regret that we fell short of the FCA's expectations but since the beginning of my tenure in early 2013, significant changes have been made at the company and new specific oversight functions have been created. This cultural change will continue to lead to the improvement in the regulatory oversight across the company.'

The failing dates to around the time that Killingbeck took over from predecessor Paul Compton. In a subsequent FCA investigation into improper share dealing the head of the WH Ireland Cardiff office was suspended.

Compton later brought about a private wrongful termination suit which was later settled out of court.

In that time, WH Ireland has gone through a restructure that has resulted in numerous office closures and senior departures.

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