The Asset Land companies and their directors promoted and operated collective investment schemes (CIS) without our authorisation. They promoted and sold plots of land in Stansted, Huby (near Harrogate), Lutterworth, Newbury, Liphook and South Godstone.
We took legal action against the Asset Land companies and their directors. We got court orders to freeze their assets and prevent them from operating the schemes until the court ruled on whether they were CIS. We did this to protect as much of the money that investors had paid to Asset Land as possible, and prevent more money being taken from new or existing investors.
A full trial of our claim was held in the High Court in October 2012. In February 2013 the High Court reached its judgment and ruled that they were operating CIS. After a further hearing in March 2013 the High Court ordered that they should pay us £21 million on behalf of investors.
Two of the defendants appealed against the High Court’s decision. We could not take any steps to obtain the money the High Court had ordered the defendants to pay us until the appeal process had been concluded as there was a possibility that the High Court’s ruling could be overturned.
The first appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in April 2014, and the Supreme Court dismissed the final appeal in a judgment handed down in April 2016. View the summary of the main findings and the full judgment.
Our action to obtain payment
The judgment enabled us to take action to enforce payment of the £21 million by the defendants whose assets remained frozen, following the original court proceedings in 2012.
We served formal demands for payment on each of the defendants. When none was received, we took insolvency proceedings against them through the courts. This resulted in the Asset Land companies being placed in liquidation and their directors being made bankrupt.
Jeremy Willmont and Emma Sayers of BDO LLP, authorised insolvency practitioners, 150 Aldersgate Street, London EC1A 4AB, were appointed joint liquidators of both the Asset Land companies and joint trustees in bankruptcy of the directors, David Banner-Eve and Stuart Cohen.
Progress of the liquidations and bankruptcies
It is the responsibility of the joint liquidators and joint trustees in bankruptcy to realise the assets of the companies and directors for the benefit of the creditors. The main creditor is the FCA on behalf of the investors.
The joint liquidators have reported that they have sold the companies’ remaining interest in the land sites named above for a total of £446,400, and are pursuing claims against other assets they have identified. This process is likely to be lengthy and it will be some time before the liquidations and bankruptcies will be concluded. The joint liquidators have reported that at this stage there is no prospect of any payment to creditors.
Recoveries by the FCA and interim payment
At the time of the original court proceedings we reached a settlement with Susan Siggins and Equity Services (London) Limited, both defendants in the case. We have now received payment of the settlement sum and our costs in relation to the winding-up of the Asset Land companies which means we have sufficient funds to make a small interim payment to investors. Subject to approval by the High Court (as required by the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000), we intend to make these payments as soon as possible.
What you need to do
If you purchased land through Asset Land and you have previously heard from us, you don’t need to do anything. Keep any documentary evidence of your land purchase safe as it may be required in the future.
If you have previously heard from us but have changed your postal address since you last heard from us, you should let us know your new address using one of the 3 methods given below.
If you have not previously heard from us or registered your position as an investor, you can do so in the following ways:
- Preferred - email: [email protected]
- Contact our Consumer Contact Centre on 0300 500 8082.
- Write to: The Asset Land Team, Unauthorised Business Department, Financial Conduct Authority, 12 Endeavour Square, London E20 1JN
You will need to provide the following information:
- Your name (and the name of the person who invested if different - see below).
- Your postal and email addresses.
- A contact telephone number.
- The total amount invested.
- The sites and plot numbers where the land purchased is situated.
- Any Register of Title number(s) for the plots issued by the Land Registry if you have them.
If you are acting on behalf of an investor or the estate of a deceased investor, you will need to provide evidence of your authority to act on their or their estate’s behalf (eg, a signed letter of authority from the investor; a Power of Attorney; Letter of Administration or Grant of Probate).
Deadline – please provide this information as soon as possible and by no later than 31 December 2019.
Land banking schemes
Land banking companies divide land into smaller plots to sell to investors on the basis that once planning permission is granted it will soar in value. But many plot-holders instead lose large sums of money as this permission is often not granted or even applied for, and they are left with a plot that is practically worthless. We estimate land banking schemes have cost UK investors as much as £200m.
If you think you may have been contacted by a land banking operation you can contact our Consumer Contact Centre.
Find out more about land banking schemes and see our tips for avoiding them.
Dealing with financial firms
Consumers should only deal with financial firms that are authorised by us, and check the Financial Services Register to ensure they are. It has information on firms and individuals that are, or have been, regulated by us.
16/05/2019: Editorial amendment Updated text to provide information for investors