Wills & Co future called into doubt

WILLS & Co, the 127-year-old City stockbroker, is locked in talks with the Financial Services Authority after surrendering all its clients over to a rival pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation by the regulator.

Wills is well underway with the transfer of its 19,000 customers to Pritchard Stockbrokers, a move group chief executive Peter Shakeshaft said was “in the best interests” of clients.

He was unable to comment if the firm would continue to operate after the FSA reaches a decision, saying: “It would be a very sad day if the Wills name were lost forever but we have to do what’s right for the creditors and shareholders. I am keen to explore all possibilities.”

Wills was slapped with a £49,000 fine from the regulator in October 2007 for “failing to ensure that its customers understood the risks involved with penny shares, and for being unclear, unfair and misleading when advising on the shares”.

It is now facing a similar gripe from the FSA regarding some calls made last year, and is understood to have taken advice from accountancy firm Ernst & Young on the matter.