Thursday May 28,2015 : PLUS500 C.E.O. APOLOGISES FOR ‘MAJOR FAILINGS'
Spreadbetting firm suffers as money laundering checks impact customer accounts.
The UK spreadbetting firm Plus500's run-in with the Financial Conduct Authority over money laundering precaution shortcomings caused more red faces this week at the company's annual meeting when CEO Gal Haber found himself apologising for what he admitted were "major failings" at the company.
These failures have resulted in tens of thousands of clients being locked out of their accounts whilst overdue money laundering checks were carried out.
The Israeli-based, London-listed group was forced by the Financial Conduct Authority to review its anti-money laundering procedures in January this year. When the review was completed earlier this (May) month, the City watchdog ordered a freeze on all transactions for UK customers.
It is understood only a “modest” number of tens of thousands of UK customers have been cleared for trading while the company gathers proof of identity.
Plus500 told The Independent newspaper this week that the trading freeze of the past two weeks has cost it $4 million in lost revenues and a conservative $2 million in costs, as 40 staff were brought in to work through the backlog.
Haber said the FCA found “major failings” in how Plus500 collected documentation on its clients’ proof of residence and financial position. It expects to take a month to check the identity of all its UK customers.
He added that “at this point it is not possible to accurately estimate the effect on the group’s annual revenue return”.
In an attempt to placate shareholders and customers, Haber and chairman Alastair Gordon have temporarily waived pay rises approved by Plus500’s remuneration committee, although they intend to accept these as soon as the company is trading “normally” again.
“We assure customers and shareholders that Plus500 has a sustainable business model and is managed and governed by a board committed to transparency and robust compliance,” Haber said, adding that Plus500 had generated revenues of $107.9 million so far this year.
However, observers noted that the company has seen more than half its value wiped out in little more than a week, with shares currently at 271.75.
One London analyst commented: “The Plus500 statement does not provide key information on customer behaviour once their accounts are unlocked… It is too soon to draw conclusions about revenues going forward.”