Two Surrey-based investments advisers have been fined a total of £885,000 and been banned by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) from holding any position at a financial firm. Mark Bentley-Leek and Mustafa Dervish, who were both directors of Bentley Leek Financial Management, were found by the regulator to have lacked integrity and to have misled clients as investments they recommended were affected by the economic downturn. The FCA has also cancelled the permissions of Bentley-Leek Financial Management, which is now in liquidation.
Between 5 March 2004 and 23 November 2010 Bentley-Leek and Dervish advised over 300 customers to invest over £35m in a series of property developments in the UK and abroad. Despite the riskiness of the investments they were selling, the pair told some of their clients that their money and a 6%-18% return on the investment was guaranteed. Some investors were told that returns of up to 50% could be expected.
Bentley-Leek and Dervish also failed to adequately inform investors that they were directors and owners of some of the property development companies they were advising clients to invest in, which created a conflict of interest.
By June 2009 both men were aware that the property investment companies were in difficulty, with the market falling and bank lending seizing up. Despite that they continued to advise clients to invest. Within 17 months, however, Bentley Leek Financial Management was in administration and had entered insolvency by November 2011.
Despite the promise of guaranteed returns, most of those who invested during this period are likely to suffer substantial losses. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) is currently considering whether those affected may be entitled to some compensation.
Tracey McDermott, director of enforcement and financial crime said:
“Many consumers committed their life savings or their pensions to these property investments as they trusted Mr Bentley-Leek and Mr Dervish’s advice. The least consumers should expect from those they turn to for investment advice is honesty and integrity. Bentley-Leek and Dervish fell far short of our expectations, they failed their customers and further tarnished the name of the financial services industry.
“We are determined to stamp out such behaviour and these sanctions should send a clear message to others who might be tempted to put their own interests ahead of those of their clients.”
Bentley-Leek and Dervish have been fined £525,000 and £360,000 respectively, substantial fines for individuals which reflect the seriousness of the breaches and the need to deter others. The fines would have been £750,000 and £450,000 respectively had Bentley-Leek and Dervish not settled at an early stage of the Authority’s investigation.
The FCA has objectives to secure an appropriate degree of protection for consumers and to protect and enhance the integrity of the UK’s financial systems.
Those affected by bad investment advice provided by Bentley-Leek Financial Management should contact the FSCS on 0800 678 1100 to see whether they can claim any compensation for their losses.