Customers of collapsed UK brokerage Beaufort Securities have voted in favour of retaining PwC as administrator and accepted its proposals to use up to £100m of private investors’ funds to pay insolvency fees, following a fiery creditors’ meeting on Thursday.
PwC confirmed on Friday that clients of the broker, which was shut down by the UK regulator in March, had voted in favour of its proposals, which include a worst-case scenario of spending £100m to return cash and assets valued at £550m to customers.
PwC also confirmed a creditors’ committee had been appointed to oversee the insolvency process. PwC said the committee represented “the spectrum of client interests”.
Mark Bentley, director of consumer action group ShareSoc, said: “This is a grudging acceptance, rather than something we really want. PwC’s initial proposals looked unacceptable but we understand that the actual fees and deductions from clients portfolios are likely to be lower than was originally suggested.
“On that basis we have agreed but the creditors’ committee will be critical for holding PwC’s feet to the fire.”
PwC told clients on Thursday it had so far spent £6m on the administration and expected to spend about £20m by the end of September.
But customers remain angry about the potential cost of the insolvency, which will be taken from their accounts.
PwC has argued that major discrepancies in Beaufort’s accounts and the “exotic” and illiquid nature of many customer investments make the process more costly and complex.
In proposals presented to clients before the Thursday meeting, the administrator told customers that of the 4,000 lines of stock owned by Beaufort customers, there were errors and problems with 150 of them, including unfinished trades, outstanding corporate actions and issues relating to a technology upgrade.
PwC has written down the value of client assets from £800m to £500m after discovering a number of “illiquid positions” which PwC believed had been incorrectly valued. Some 700 clients with larger portfolios of more than £150,000 in cash and assets could lose up to 40 per cent of their ringfenced assets.
Hours after Beaufort was put into insolvency in the UK, the US Department of Justice brought criminal charges against the company and several employees for allegedly manipulating US penny stocks via so-called “pump-and-dump” schemes and orchestrating money laundering.
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