Thousands of investors are facing losses of close to half the £152 million they put into a failed peer-to-peer lender that is being investigated for moving assets to related parties before its collapse.
In the latest scandal to hit the ‘shadow savings’ industry, administrators of Lendy, which went under in May, have warned investors that they should expect to lose a significant proportion of the capital they put into the platform because of the dire state of its loan book.
In a report issued to creditors, the administrators said they were investigating the sale of Lendy’s headquarters to a company owned by Liam Brooke, its co-founder, last October, a month after the City regulator had increased its scrutiny of the lender’s activities.
They said that they were investigating the transfer of Brankesmere House, Southsea, to a related party, as well as “other distributions to the company shareholders”.
The report, which paints a damning picture of how Lendy was managed, also raises questions for the Financial Conduct Authority. The regulator formally authorised Lendy in July 2018, at a point when administrators said that the viability of the business had been “fundamentally undermined” by a lack of cash, rising defaults and more disputes with borrowers.
Lendy began crowdsourcing money from retail investors to lend to property developers in 2014. It suffered a sharp rise in defaults leading up to its failure, at which point about £152 million was outstanding. The scandal will increase concerns that ordinary savers have been exposed to high-risk, poorly managed and lightly regulated companies in the hunt for returns in an era of record low interest rates.
The authority is the subject of an independent investigation amid allegations that it failed to properly oversee London Capital & Finance, the investment firm that collapsed in January, having taken more than £236 million from more than 11,500 savers.
It authorised Lendy at a time when it was unable to fulfil loan commitments to its commercial borrowers and its income was collapsing, administrators have revealed.
Adam Bunch, 37, of the Lendy Action Group, which represents investors, said: “It is staggering Lendy was granted full authorisation, given that its business was already in a perilous state.”
Investors were told by Lendy that they could make returns of up to 12 per cent while investing their capital and with “complete peace of mind”. The joint administrators said that on some loans, returns could be as low as 7p for every pound invested.
Estimated returns to investors will average about 58p in the pound including interest, some of which will have been returned already before Lendy failed. It is understood that administrators hope to return at least half of the £150 million that was outstanding when Lendy went bust.
The authority, which is also investigating Lendy’s collapse, said it had authorised Lendy because it met the necessary conditions, but that “further information came to light and we subjected the firm to increasing scrutiny”.