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Keydata boss cries foul as court upholds £76m fine

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Keydata boss cries foul as court upholds £76m fine

Keydata founder Stewart Ford has protested his innocence after a court ruling gave the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) the green light to fine him £76 million, saying he has been the ‘victim of a grave injustice’.

Keydata, which promoted controversial life settlement or 'death bond' funds supplied by two SLS Capital and Lifemark, was pushed into administration by then regulator the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in 2009 over tax debts incurred by mislabelling products as ISAs.

A total of 5,000 investors saw savings disappear when £103 million disappeared from SLS Capital, which was run by fugitive businessman David Elias. Meanwhile, 25,000 Keydata investors who invested in Lifemark-backed bonds saw their investments frozen when the company entered administration.

Ford has complained that he has been ‘the subject of a concentrated and sustained attack’ by the regulator which ‘failed, miserably, to provide me with a fair and balanced investigation’, adding that the Upper Tribunal had ‘now compounded that injustice’ with its decision yesterday.

Last year the FCA announced its plan to fine Ford £75 million and former Keydata sales director Mark Owen £4 million.

Both appealed the fines, with the case heard by the Upper Tribunal, which issued its judgment yesterday. 

The tribunal increased Ford's penalty to £76 million, 20 times the previous record fine from the financial regulator for an individual, equal to the fees and commissions he allegedly gathered from investors.

The court also said it found that Ford ‘actively concealed material matters from investors, IFAs and the [Financial Conduct] Authority.’

Ford said he was ‘as disappointed with the Upper Tribunal as I am with its decision’.

‘Without infringing the law or my conscience, I say and believe that I have been the victim of a grave injustice,' he said.

‘For those who truly know me, you will be aware that this decision of the Upper Tribunal runs counter to every fibre of my being. My honour, my good name, my competence and my integrity have been impugned.’

Ford said it had been ‘widely accepted’ that Keydata, its investors and himself were ‘victims of a very sophisticated fraud in respect of the SLS products’, and that there were ‘no risks’ associated with the Lifemark portfolio.

He added: ‘…prior to the wrongful intervention of the Financial Services Authority in June 2009, all of Keydata’s Lifemark Products had performed as forecast and all obligations to Keydata investors had been discharged in full and on time.’

Ford has been fighting the fine imposed by the FCA and had a £600 million claim against the regulator dismissed back in 2016. Ford also sued his lawyer for £4 million, claiming that he helped contribute to the collapse of the company.

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