FCA takes action against three individuals from SVS Securities for mistreatment of pension funds

Demetrios Hadjigeorgiou and David Stephen have referred their Decision Notices to the Upper Tribunal where they will each present their respective cases. Any findings in these individuals’ Decision Notices and the descriptions of those findings in this press release are therefore provisional and reflect the FCA’s belief as to what occurred and how it considers their behaviour is to be characterised.
Kulvir Virk has not referred the FCA’s decision to the Upper Tribunal and his Final Notice has not been the subject of any judicial finding. To the extent that Kulvir Virk’s Final Notice contains criticisms of Demetrios Hadjigeorgiou and David Stephen, they have received Decision Notices which set these out. They dispute many of the facts and any characterisation of their actions in Kulvir Virk’s Final Notice and have referred their Decision Notices to the Upper Tribunal for determination. The Tribunal's decision in respect of the individuals' references will be made public on its website.

The FCA has decided to ban and fine 3 individuals who were involved in running SVS Securities Plc (SVS), a discretionary fund manager.

SVS managed investments held on behalf of its customers. Under FCA rules, the firm was required to act in the best interests of its customers and not let conflicts of interests interfere with its obligations to them.

Kulvir Virk, the former CEO and majority shareholder, recklessly caused SVS to use a complex business model intended to maximise the flow of customer funds into high-risk illiquid bonds. These bonds were operated by directors of SVS and a close business associate of Mr Virk. The model involved inducements to SVS and unauthorised introducers with undisclosed commissions of up to 12% of the customers’ investments. The model created systematic conflicts of interests and inappropriately prioritised income to SVS over the best interests of customers.

879 customers paid in a total of £69.1m. Bonds into which they were invested by SVS have since defaulted, with customers unlikely to receive more than a fraction of their investment back.

In the FCA’s view, as Head of Compliance, David Stephen failed to fulfil his responsibilities to ensure SVS was following the rules. Demetrios Hadjigeorgiou, SVS’s former finance director then CEO, also failed to fulfil his responsibilities to manage conflicts of interest and ensure proper due diligence was carried out.

The FCA has found that the 3 individuals acted recklessly in deciding to mark-down customers’ valuations when they disinvested from fixed income assets, with the result that SVS kept 10% of customer funds. This allowed them to generate £359,800 in income for SVS at the expense of its customers.

The FCA has decided to fine Mr Virk, £215,500; Mr Hadjigeorgiou, £84,600; and Mr Stephen, £52,100. The FCA has banned Mr Virk from working in financial services, and decided to ban Mr Hadjigeorgiou and Mr Stephen from holding senior management roles.

Therese Chambers, Joint Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight, said:

'These three individuals and SVS were a central part of a tangled web which concealed the fact that customers’ pension money was being invested into high-risk bonds. Customers were entitled to trust that SVS would act in their best interests, but it repeatedly prioritised income for itself and its associates.

'The actions of those in charge threatened the ability of their customers to enjoy a secure and comfortable retirement. This kind of behaviour has life-changing consequences for consumers.'

Notes to editors

  1. Final Notice 2024: Kulvir Virk (PDF)
  2. Decision Notice 2024: David John Alexander Stephen (PDF)
  3. Decision Notice 2024: Demetrios Christos Hadjigeorgiou (PDF)
  4. Warning Notice statement 23/5 (PDF)
  5. The FCA considers that the three individuals acted without integrity and/or without due skill, care and diligence in carrying out these acts.
  6. ‘Third party rights’ were awarded to Stuart Anderson, David Ewing and Andrew Flitcroft pursuant to section 393 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 on the basis that the three Decision Notices identified and prejudiced them (the FCA is not taking action against them). They have not referred the FCA’s decisions to the Upper Tribunal.
  7. On 2 August 2019, the FCA took action to require SVS to cease all regulated activities, safeguard assets and notify affected third parties. SVS entered into Special Administration on 5 August 2019. 
  8. SVS customers can find more information about making a claim to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme on their website.
  9. Find out more information about the FCA.