Hundreds of thousands of investors with a troubled fund chief were denied access to their money again last night – and told they must carry on paying fees.
Neil Woodford sparked further outrage by refusing to apologise to customers who gave him their life savings. And he said: 'All of my personal financial investments are in the funds we run here.'
He insisted his equity income fund could not reopen because it did not yet have enough cash to pay those who wanted to pull out their money.
Neil Woodford sparked further outrage by refusing to apologise to customers who gave him their life savings. He insisted his equity income fund could not reopen because it did not yet have enough cash to pay those who wanted to pull out their money
The fund was frozen a month ago as investors lost faith and scrambled to recover their nest eggs. The hundreds of thousands of investors with cash tied up in the fund had been hoping it would be unlocked last night following a 28-day review by independent directors. Instead they ruled it must remain shut for at least another month.
And customers will have to carry on paying management fees to Mr Woodford because he is still refusing to waive them.
The fees come to £100,000 a working day – totalling more than £2million since the fund was frozen. Among those affected are around 300,000 customers who put in cash through trading platform Hargreaves Lansdown.
The fund was frozen a month ago as investors lost faith and scrambled to recover their nest eggs. The hundreds of thousands of investors with cash tied up in the fund had been hoping it would be unlocked last night following a 28-day review by independent directors
Brian King invested £10,000 of his and wife Sylvia's money into Mr Woodford's fund.
The 77-year-old retired project manager said: 'It feels like we are being held hostage in the fund. It is like he is saying "We have your money, I'll collect my fees and there is nothing you can do".'
Dennis Deane and his wife Janet put £40,000 into Neil Woodford's equity income fund because they wanted a 'safe and steady' investment.
Now they have had to cancel their annual October break and Mr Deane is hoping to join a class action lawsuit against the fallen star investor.
The 71-year-old retired technology officer said: 'The value of the fund is falling every day and the City regulator, the FCA, is doing nothing about it.
'Neil Woodford needs to reimburse every investor with any money they've lost in the time it has been closed – as well as any fees we've paid.'
Mr Deane, who lives in Lamberhurst, Kent, said he and his 73-year-old wife, both pictured, may resort to equity release if he loses all the money in the fund because it represents around four years of their retirement pot.
He said: 'Every October we go away, but this year we have decided not to because of the money we've lost in the fund. I also had an opportunity to buy a second-hand Bentley – but I decided I couldn't do that because of this.
'If there is any class action lawsuit as a result of this, I will absolutely join it.'
One Money Mail reader invested £75,000 of his work pension into the Woodford equity income fund and it is now worth just £59,000.
'My hands are tied, I can't do anything to stop it going down,' he said, withholding his name.
The equity income fund was frozen because it had invested heavily in risky small businesses whose shares are hard to sell quickly. Mr Woodford was then hit with a £263million withdrawal request by Kent County Council – a sum equal to 8.2 per cent of the entire fund.
This meant the manager, who was once a star of the investment world, did not have enough spare cash to pay the council and had to refuse the request, triggering a suspension for all savers.
Despite a wave of criticism over taking high-risk punts on unlisted firms, Mr Woodford defended his actions. He claimed the small companies he is now having to sell are extremely lucrative – and insisted that his strategy has been the right one all along.
Mr Woodford, 59, sparked anger with a self-pitying video on his website in the wake of last night's announcement in which he said he understood customers' anger – but did not apologise.
He said his own fortune was also tied up in his investment firm, adding: 'We understand that people want access to their money. They're very frustrated by not being able to deal in the fund.
'But we're using the time we now have to execute that strategy in the best possible way we can to ensure we get the right outcomes for our investors.'
It is now up to Link Fund Solutions, a company that is independent of Mr Woodford, to say when the equity income fund is allowed to reopen. Link is required to give an update once a month and made its first announcement last night.
In a letter to investors after markets closed, director Karl Midl said the fund would remain shut for another 28 days. The next update will be on July 29.
He added: 'It remains in the best interests of all investors in the fund to continue the suspension. The fund's investment manager, Woodford Investment Management Limited, has been taking steps to reposition the fund's portfolio to realise the unquoted and less liquid stocks and invest in more liquid investments. We will continue to monitor the situation on a daily basis.'
Darius McDermott, an analyst at City firm Chelsea Financial Services, said it could take up to five months before the fund reopens because Mr Woodford's risky bets will be so hard to unpick.
Dennis Deane and his wife Janet put £40,000 into Neil Woodford's equity income fund because they wanted a 'safe and steady' investment. Now they have had to cancel their annual October break and Mr Deane is hoping to join a class action lawsuit against the fallen star investor
Campaigners warned that he must now stop charging his long-suffering customers.
Justin Modray, of consumer group Candid Money, said: 'It's a travesty that having lost investors a fair chunk of their savings – and stopped them accessing it – Mr Woodford's company is continuing to pocket fees. It could be many, many months before this reopens, and Mr Woodford should show some solidarity with the customers who he's left high and dry.'
Ros Altmann, former pensions minister, said: 'One of the first things you would have expected Mr Woodford to do when communicating with his investors is to apologise so it's astonishing he has not done so in his video.'
RUTH Sunderland: Neil Woodford investment scandal strikes at the very heart of thrifty Britain
The Woodford affair, which boiled up to crisis point yesterday after investors' hopes of withdrawing their money were dashed, is a financial scandal that has struck at the heart of thrifty, aspirational middle Britain.
A decade after the banking crisis that shook the foundations of our capitalist economy, arrogant moneymen have once again treated savers abominably.
Fund manager Neil Woodford and his colleagues have acted, too, with the help of self-interested middlemen at Hargreaves Lansdown, a hugely popular platform for small savers.