FSA heaps censure on Wills

WILLS & CO, the 127-year-old City stockbroker, was yesterday publicly censured by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), which said the firm had consistently failed to remedy poor sales practices and properly monitor its advisers despite previous regulatory warnings.

The FSA, which has barred Wills from giving investment advice, said the firm would have been slapped with a £1.5m fine had it not already been in the process of winding downits business. It also censured two Wills executives, sales director Darren Lansdown and compliance director Katharine Prichard, for failure to comply with regulatory requirements.

The move comes after the FSA fined Wills £49,000 in 2007 for failing to properly warn customers of the risks they were taking by investing in volatile penny shares. It later insisted that Wills appoint an external consultant to retrain its advisers, but has again ruled that the actions taken by the firm were insufficient.

The majority of Wills’ 19,000 stockbroking accounts have now been taken over by Share Plc. The remainder is expected to be retained by Pritchard Stockbrokers, to which the firm surrendered all of its clients last month pending the outcome of the FSA’s investigation.