The British financial services regulator has fined two senior executives at the collapsed Worldspreads Group, and barred both from future involvement in regulatory activity.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said former chief financial office Niall O'Kelly and former financial controller Lukhvir Thind had knowingly falsified critical financial information in the spread-betting company's 2010 and 2011 annual accounts concerning its client liabilities and its cash position. That false information was then passed to the company's auditors.
By the end of March 2011, the FCA said, the misstatements amounted to £15.9 million (€18.6m).
The company, founded by Irishman Conor Foley, floated on the London AIM market in August 2007. The FCA found that Mr O'Kelly was also closely involved in drafting documents for the flotation that contained materially misleading information and omitted key information. The business collapsed in 2012.
FCA enforcement director Mark Steward said Mr Thind and Mr O'Kelly "deliberately and repeatedly disseminated false and misleading information relating to a publicly-listed company. Their actions amounted to serious market abuse, undermining the integrity of our markets, and this will not be tolerated."
He said Mr Thind had eventually raised concerns to the Worldspreads boards, and both men had co-operated with an investigation and had admitted market abuse.
Mr O’Kelly was fined £11,900, while Mr Thind was fined £105,000 (€122,700) for their involvement in market abuse at Worldspreads Limited. Both men have been permanently banned from performing any function related to regulated activity.
The FCA said that, having produced evidence of “serious financial hardship”, Mr O’Kelly’s fine was reduced from an original figure of £468,756 (€547,800).