On 30 April 2013, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a public censure to Horn Express Ltd (formerly Qaran Express Money Transfer Limited). The censure stated that it would have been accompanied by a fine of £136,687, if the firm had not shown that it was in financial difficulties and that the fine would have caused it serious financial hardship.
While it is no longer trading as a money transfer business, during the period 1 December 2009 to 26 August 2011 the firm was carrying on the business of transferring money out of the UK under the authorisation of the Payment Services Regulations 2009 (PSR). During this period, they were found to have mixed customer funds with their own (without properly recording the amounts), in a bank account which was not set up for the purpose of storing customer funds. The latter meant that the customer funds could have been applied by the bank to settle the firm's own liabilities. As well as breaching its safeguarding and segregation obligations, the firm was also found to have failed to supervise its branches and agents adequately.
This case is significant because it is the first time that public sanctions have been imposed on a firm which was authorised under the PSR, for breaches of the PSR. This is a watershed moment for the FCA, which is setting out its stand as a regulator which intends to exercise actively the full extent of its regulatory powers, rather than confining enforcement action to firms regulated by the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.