Regulators in the U.K. have pulled the passports of several offshore investment firms that deal in risky contracts for difference (CFDs), citing a variety of misconduct, including the use of unauthorized celebrity endorsements to promote the firms.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued orders banning four Cyprus-based firms from selling CFDs to investors in the U.K.
The orders require the firms to stop selling CFDs to clients, return their money and notify them of the FCA’s action.
The FCA said that the firms, which are entitled to appeal the regulator’s orders, “used social media and webpages carrying fake endorsements from celebrities to entice consumers into the scams involving CFDs.”
Among other things, it said clients weren’t adequately informed about the risks of trading in CFDs, and some investors were pressured into trading and encouraged to borrow to trade.
A couple of the firms have also been suspended by their home regulator, the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission, based on the FCA’s findings.
A notice on one of the affected firm’s websites now says, “CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. Eighty-one per cent of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider.”
The cases represent the first time the FCA has prohibited firms by revoking their ability to operate in the U.K. through a regulatory passport.
“The FCA has removed passporting rights for these firms which effectively stops them from continuing to provide these types of products in the U.K.,” said Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA.
The regulator noted that its investigations into the sector continue.