View the article online at http://citywire.co.uk/money/article/a873843
‘They’ll have to kill me to stop me’, says Keydata boss
Stewart Ford, former boss of Keydata, an investment firm whose collapse in 2009 caused a scandal, vows to continue fight against City watchdog.
Former Keydata chief executive Stewart Ford has said the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) would ‘have to kill’ him to stop him pursuing his legal battle with the City regulator after securing an early victory in his appeal against a £75 million fine for alleged misconduct.
Ford (pictured) and two other Keydata senior managers – former sales director Mark Owen and former compliance officer Peter Johnson – are inappealing a combined £79 million in fines for their alleged failure to act with integrity and for misleading the regulator over investment performance.
Keydata, which promoted controversial life settlement or 'death bond' funds supplied by two SLS Capital and Lifemark, was pushed into administration by then regulator the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in 2009 over tax debts incurred by mislabelling products as ISAs.
It later emerged money had been stolen from SLS Capital while Lifemark developed severe liquidity problems which meant it could not repay investors' money.
In a case management hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday ahead of an Upper Tribunal appeal, Ford won some small but potentially significant decisions.
The FCA had called for the upcoming Upper Tribunal hearing between the regulator and the Keydata bosses to begin in November, with disclosure of key documents starting next month. Ford however argued that disclosure should begin at the end of March with a view to a full hearing taking place in March next year.
Judge Roger Berner sided with Ford, pushing the trial back to 2017 with an exact date to be set at forthcoming case management sessions.
‘You shouldn’t anticipate a hearing this year,’ Berner said. ‘This is a very substantial, complex case with a large amount of case management to be done between now and the hearing. Doing that and setting a date this year would be very optimistic.'
Ford fights on
Ford told the court that he was intent on fighting the fine and would stop at nothing.
‘They’ll have to kill me to stop me pursuing this,’ Ford said. 'They already ruined my life, there's nothing more they can do.'
‘The way the authority conducted themselves is disgraceful. There’s a significant amount of customer detriment and I believe it falls squarely at their feet.’
While Ford vowed to fight on, Johnson has removed himself from a separate civil claim seeking aggravated damages of over £600 million from the FCA for ‘malfeasance in public office’ which was launched by the three Keydata bosses last May. The trio allege that the FSA had ignored evidence when deciding to place Keydata into administration.
Acting for the FCA, Blackstone Chambers' Andrew George QC said that Keydata had caused 'objective detriment' to consumers before the regulator intervened.
'It's a matter of fact the products were as risky as they were,' he said. 'Nothing changed after. The applicants knew what they knew and did what they did. Nothing had changed. The objective detriment consumers suffered had been suffered at that point.'
In his evidence to the Upper Tribunal, Johnson is set to admit misconduct, but will argue that this was a result of his lack of experience, expertise and professional judgment, but that he had not acted maliciously, his lawyers Clifford Chance said. Johnson is looking to get his £200,000 fine either reduced or removed.
The civil case against the FCA is being allowed to continue alongside the Upper Tribunal appeal of the fines. The FCA is understood to be considering an application to strike out the civil claim however due to a lack of evidence. The FCA is expected to respond to Ford’s claim against it around the end of January, according to Ford.
The FCA declined to comment on the case.
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