What happened?

On 29 November 2017, the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a statement of objections (i.e. charges) against four asset management firms: Artemis Investment; Hagreave Hale; Newton Investment Management; and River & Mercantile Group.

The charges allege that the firms shared sensitive price information about two Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) and one share placement between 2014 and 2015.

These charges and the on-going investigation follow the FCA’s recent market study into the UK asset management sector in general. That study identified evidence of “weak price competition in a number of areas of the asset management industry” and prompted closer scrutiny of investment consultancy, fiduciary management services and investment platforms.

Why does this matter?

This development is significant because it marks the first time the FCA has issued charges under the Competition Act 1998 since it was given competition law enforcement powers - alongside those of the CMA - in April 2015.

It also illustrates how a broad market study into competitive conditions in a particular market can lead to targeted investigations, charges and, potentially, fines.

What happens next?

The four firms will now be granted access to the evidence on the FCA’s file, and an opportunity to respond to the charges in writing and at an oral hearing. Only then may the FCA reach a final decision on whether an infringement has occurred and penalties should be imposed.