Hundreds of thousands of investors are being told what they will receive as Neil Woodford’s stricken fund is wound up, with some receiving just half of their initial investment.
The Woodford Equity Income fund attracted up to £10bn in investments but folded last year after a series of disastrous choices.
Letters are being sent to those left in the fund.
Investors will get between 46p and 59p a share in the next few days.
This will be the first, and biggest, payout made as the fund is wound up, with smaller reimbursements due later once other assets are sold.
What happened to Woodford?
Fund manager Neil Woodford made his name as a star stock-picker at Invesco Perpetual, before launching his own business.
He was as close to a household name as is possible in the world of investing. People piled into his flagship UK Equity Income Fund. At its peak, it had £10bn of people’s money in it.
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But several of his picks plummeted in value, such as the door-to-door lender Provident Financial, Kier construction and the outsourcing company Capita. He also invested in obscure unlisted shares which have proved difficult to offload.
He was sacked in October, and the decision was made to close the fund. However, many investors have been left in limbo since June when the fund was first suspended.
Now, for the first time, they are being told exactly how much they will receive in an initial payment thought to represent about 75% of the fund.
What has been the reaction from investors?
Many are disappointed, with the extent of losses dependent on when they invested in the fund, and how much they paid for a share.
Peter Turlik, from London, put £21,000 in the fund, as a five-year investment plan, but will now only receive half of that back.
Anne Sweeney, from Preston, also invested £20,000 and is not expecting any more than £12,500.
“I feel very disappointed and let down, like I’ve been lied to, blatantly lied to,” she said.
Both are among investors unhappy with stockbroking group Hargreaves Lansdown, which had Woodford Equity Income on its list of favoured investments for a lengthy period.
“We share their deep frustration at what has happened and continue to waive our fees while it remains closed,” a spokesman for Hargreaves Lansdown said.
What happens next?
There is some hope that investors’ losses will be reduced by further payouts, but it is not clear by how much.
“The payment of the first tranche of the liquidated assets will be a relief for thousands of investors who have been trapped in the fund since June last year, but there is still huge uncertainty around the money still stuck in illiquid assets [investments which take longer to sell),” said Ryan Hughes, head of active portfolios at AJ Bell.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said some responsibility should be taken by regulators.
“Many small investors who were simply seeking a secure investment for their pension have been hurt by the failure of Woodford. This isn’t just about the failure of Woodford. More importantly it’s about the failure of the regulatory system and in particular the Financial Conduct Authority,” he said.
He called for an independent inquiry and said former FCA boss, Andrew Bailey, should see his appointment as governor of the Bank of England delayed until this is completed.