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BREAKING NEWS

Woodford rejects calls to waive fees for suspended fund

Woodford rejects calls to waive fees for suspended fund
Neil Woodford, founder and fund manager at Woodford Investment Management, is seen in this undated handout picture released on June 10, 2019. Jonathan Atkins/Handout via REUTERS. -
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By Huw Jones and Carolyn Cohn

LONDON (Reuters) – Neil Woodford’s asset management firm said on Tuesday it won’t waive fees for investors in its suspended flagship fund, rejecting calls from its regulator and lawmakers.

Woodford, among Britain’s most famous fund managers, has faced fierce criticism after suspending his 3.7 billion pound equity income fund on June 3, in a rare move for a fund designed for retail investors. The fund has not given a date for reopening.

“The company will continue to charge the fee as the fund remains actively managed and we focus on repositioning the portfolio,” a spokesman for Woodford Investment Management said.

Fees for the fund range from 0.5-0.75% of the assets under management, the spokesman said.

Andrew Bailey, chief executive of Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority, said earlier on Tuesday that he agreed with lawmaker calls for fees to be waived in the Woodford fund.

“He should consider his position,” Bailey told BBC radio.

“From our point of view, we need him now to manage these assets more than ever. His job now is to get this fund back into a position where there can be orderly trading. He has his work cut out now,” Bailey said.

The European Union’s rule on funds limits so-called unlisted or illiquid holdings to 10%, dubbed the “trash ratio” by industry insiders.

“There is a way around that which he used, which is to take assets to another jurisdiction which can be deemed as eligible,” Bailey said.

“Around about 20% of the Woodford Fund was in unquoted assets. A bit under 10% was held in Britain, and about 11% was moved to another jurisdiction. That was within the rules,” Bailey said.

Four of the Woodford equity income fund’s investments were listed in Guernsey in the last three years, allowing the fund to classify them as listed.

“That’s allowable under the rules. I don’t think it is right. Investors should be able to determine where their assets are held,” Bailey said.

He said there is no fixed term for a suspension of a fund, which can be a useful “safety value”.

Investors will get their money out when the fund has been put back in a condition where it can operate in an orderly fashion, he said.

“The worse thing in my view for investors is for there to be a disorderly fire sale of assets, which would, of course, destroy value for them,” Bailey said.

IMPARTIAL

British fund supermarket Hargreaves Lansdown, a major Woodford backer, picks out a number of funds it considers to be among the best value for its ‘Wealth 50’ list.

Bailey said that in general, “We look at how funds construct these best buy tables.

“They should be impartial, make sure it’s done promptly, in the sense of up to date.

“We will look at these again to ensure they and others have abided by those principles.”

Hargreaves’ shares, which have fallen 15% since the Woodford fund suspension, were down 0.5% at 1118 GMT.

Woodford Patient Capital Trust, the firm’s only listed fund, bounced 7.8% in a move which traders described as “technical” after a drop of 20% over the past five trading sessions.

(Additional reporting by Simon Jessop and Helen Reid; Editing by Rachel Armstrong and Louise Heavens)

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