FCA cracks down on crowdfunding

Sarah Davidson

February 3, 2015

The regulator said some crowdfunders had been “cherry-picking” information, omitting the loan’s APR and “having a lack of balance by giving prominence to the benefits of borrowing without a prominent indication of risk”.

The FCA said: “Following our review, we contacted all the relevant firms and told them to make the necessary changes to their websites to ensure they were fair, clear and not misleading and fully compliant with our rules.

“All the firms we wrote to were keen to comply and most made the required changes with immediate effect.”

Another “particular concern” for the FCA is investors with little or no experience.

The regulator added: “Firms need to provide investors with appropriate information, in a comprehensive form, so that they are reasonably able to understand the nature and risks of the investment and, consequently, to make investment decisions on an informed basis.”

The FCA plans to conduct a post-implementation review of its rules in 2016.

Christian Faes, managing director of LendInvest, the peer-to-peer mortgage lender, said: “The FCA are taking a very sensible approach with the implementation of the crowdfunding and peer-to-peer rules.

“However, as they rightly point out, there are definitely concerns about what sorts of investor protections are in place.

“There are ‘provision funds’ and other sorts of gimmicks, however what really matters is the loan underwriting and the loan security.”

He added: “There are definitely a lot of P2P platforms in the market that are taking a lot of investor money, with no evident track record of lending nor any underwriting experience.

“This is a major issue, and there is definitely the potential for a lot of investors to lose money in the P2P space, if it turns out that the loans that certain platforms have been writing are of extremely poor quality.”

Although the FCA conceded it didn’t need to change its regulatory approach the regulator added: “We will continue to monitor the market in addition to the formal review process and will take any appropriate action.

“It may be that there are changes to the regulatory framework for crowdfunding as a result of future EU work.”

If loan-based crowdfunding platforms become as risky as investment-based crowdfunders the FCA said it will likely step in and “consider applying a similar approach as for non-realisable securities”.

The regulator said the number of loan-based crowdfunding platforms stood at 56 by the end of 2014.

Christopher Woolard, director of strategy and competition at the FCA, said: “Over the last year we’ve seen the extraordinary growth of peer-to-peer and equity-based crowdfunding continue.

“Our aim, with the rules we put in place in April, is to ensure that the growth we’re seeing comes with appropriate investor protection in place.”

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