UK watchdog to update on probe into collapsed Woodford fund end May

LONDON, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority said on Thursday it will update lawmakers by the end of May on its 18-month investigation into the suspension of former star stock picker Neil Woodford’s flagship investment fund.

The watchdog come under fire on Thursday from senior lawmakers over the amount of time it was taking to probe the fund’s suspension, which happened in 2019, particularly now that Woodford is planning to open a new fund.

WCM Partners, an investment management firm that would be based in Jersey and Buckinghamshire, England, said this week that Woodford would become its chief investment officer.

“As the FCA’s investigation still continues over 18 months after the fund was suspended, the reports of the new fund may understandably be of concern to investors who previously lost out,” Mel Stride, chair of parliament’s Treasury Select Committee said in a statement on Thursday.

“The FCA should set out when we can expect its investigation to conclude,” Stride said.

The FCA said on Thursday it appreciated the committee’s interest in Woodford. “We committed to the committee on Tuesday to provide a further update to them by 31st May,” the FCA said.

The Jersey Financial Services Commission (JFSC) said on Wednesday it had not received an authorisation application from WCM Partners. WCM had declined to comment on the JFSC statement and Reuters was not able to reach WCM for further comment on Thursday.

Woodford’s former firm, UK-based Woodford Investment Management, collapsed in 2019, several months after its main fund froze, leaving thousands of small savers unable to retrieve their cash. It was backed by more than 300,000 investors.

The FCA said this week the Woodford probe was complex, impacted by the pandemic, and involved a significant number of entities in the chain of operation of the fund. (Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by Carmel Crimmins)