FSA to get tough on takeovers

Steve Dinneen
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TOUGH new laws will leave companies which breach takeover rules open to unlimited fines.

The announcement follows claims the FSA had no sting in its tail after a billion pound property fund was fined a measly £1,000 after admitting breaking the rules.

Semperian PPP Investment Partners yesterday pleaded guilty to rushing ahead with the takeover of an FSA-regulated subsidiary from Telereal without waiting for regulatory approval but escaped with a fine that was many times lower than the accumulated wages of the lawyers present.

Prior to the changes a £5,000 maximum fine was in place, meaning the FSA was impotent against powerful companies with mammoth balance sheets. Now fines administered can be appropriate to the size of the firms involved.

Margaret Cole, director of the watchdog’s enforcement and financial crime division, said: “This is a serious offence, and the change in law means that future violations could result in an unlimited fine. Today’s result is a clear warning to other potential controllers that the FSA will prosecute change-in-control offences in appropriate cases.”

Semperian claimed to have acted “in good faith and in accordance with market practice at the time”.

Earlier this week, the FSA imposed its biggest ever fine on an individual, billing a Turkish oil executive over £960,000 for insider trading in shares of London-listed Heritage Oil.

Mehmet Sepil, chief executive and 44 per cent owner of oil explorer Genel Enerji, and Genel Enerji’s chief commercial officer Murat Ozgul were also fined.