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FCA publishes Decision Notices against two individuals for acting without integrity in relation to pensions business

Summary of Development

Both individuals have referred the Decision Notices to the Upper Tribunal. Any findings in the Decision Notices are therefore provisional and reflect the FCA’s belief as to what occurred and how it considers their behaviour should be characterised. However, as is noted on Mr Burdett’s Decision Notice, there are certain allegations and findings that are no longer being pursued by the FCA before the Tribunal. 

The FCA has decided to ban Stephen Joseph Burdett and James Paul Goodchild from working in regulated financial services for recklessly exposing pension holders to unsuitable investments. It has also fined them £311,762 and £47,600 respectively. 

Mr Burdett and Mr Goodchild previously held senior roles at Synergy Wealth Limited (Synergy) and Westbury Private Clients LLP (Westbury), respectively. 

The FCA alleges that Mr Burdett's actions led to 232 personal pension funds worth over £10m being switched into high-risk investment portfolios that were obviously unsuitable for most customers. The portfolios were created and managed by Mr Goodchild at Westbury, with 39% of overall holdings linked to a single offshore property developer. 

All the portfolios were high-risk. But Mr Burdett’s actions led to customers receiving reports implying they would get low or medium risk portfolios. Mr Goodchild included the misleading terms 'cautious' and 'balanced' in the names of 2 of the 3 high-risk portfolios. 

Further, Mr Burdett acted as a director of Synergy despite knowing he did not have the required FCA approval to perform such a function. Mr Burdett also failed to co-operate appropriately with the FCA’s investigation. 

The FCA intervened in 2016 to protect consumers, stopping the pensions business of Synergy and Westbury. Both firms subsequently went into liquidation and were dissolved. 

Mr Burdett gained £150,000 from his misconduct. Mr Goodchild also obtained significant financial benefit, including through a short-term £50,000 interest free loan from the company which introduced him to the offshore property developer. To date, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme has paid out over £1.4m to victims. 

Therese Chambers, Joint Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight at the FCA, said 'These customers built up pensions over their working lives to help fund their retirement. Mr Burdett and Mr Goodchild worked together to switch their hard-earned pensions into obviously unsuitable high-risk portfolios. Both were involved in creating misleading materials and made significant personal profits from their actions. We will not tolerate such conduct.'