Regulators in the U.K. are stepping in to block the sale of certain complex, speculative investment vehicles known as “mini-bonds” to retail investors.
The U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has announced that it is banning the marketing of speculative illiquid securities — such as unlisted debentures and preferred shares that raise funds to lend to a third party or invest in other companies — to retail customers, effective Jan. 1, 2020.
The ban comes amid growing concern about investor protection in the sale of these complex, opaque investments.
The FCA also reported that it is currently investigating more than 200 investment promotions that may not comply with FCA rules and 80 cases of possible unregistered activity. It said that illegal scam activity appears to be on the rise too.
“We remain concerned at the scope for promotion of mini-bonds to retail investors who do not have the experience to assess and manage the risks involved,” said Andrew Bailey, CEO of the FCA, in a statement.
The ban will mean that “unlisted speculative mini-bonds can only be promoted to” sophisticated, high net-worth investors, and that marketing efforts must include specific risk warnings and cost disclosure. Listed mini-bonds and certain other vehicles will be excluded from the ban.
The action gives the regulator 12 months to make permanent rules.
The FCA said that it also intends to launch an education campaign to warn investors about high-risk investments.