On 29 November 2017 the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced that it had issued a statement of objections to four asset management firms, namely Artemis Investment Management LLP, Hargreave Hale Ltd, Newton Investment Management Limited and River & Mercantile Asset Management LLP, setting out its provisional finding that the firms have breached competition law by sharing sensitive information in relation to Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) and a placing. Specifically, the firms are alleged to have shared price information regarding the shares to be issued via the IPOs and the placing shortly before the share prices were set. The sharing, which was generally bilateral in nature, took place in 2014 and 2015 and allowed the firms to be aware of each other’s plans during the IPO or placing process when instead they should have been competing to purchase the shares.
The four firms will be permitted to make representations (both in writing and orally) in relation to the statement of objections prior to the FCA taking an infringement decision. This is the first case brought by the FCA using its competition enforcement powers under the Competition Act 1998, which it was granted on 1 April 2015 and holds concurrently with the CMA. Those powers enable the FCA to enforce UK (and EU) competition law prohibitions against anti-competitive agreements and conduct where such prohibitions are breached by parties involved in the provision of financial services. The FCA previously used its concurrent powers to make a market investigation reference to the CMA in relation investment consultancy and fiduciary management services.