THG founder Matthew Moulding slammed City regulations as he shared “bitter experience” of running a company listed on the London Stock Exchange.
THG share price slumped 20% following speculations that the Apollo takeover deal is unlikely to go through. Since the approach by US private equity giant, shares in THG have been on the rise from 66p to 117p – their highest value since June last year.
Recalling THG’s experience, Moulding said: “Anyone not adopting the 1930s-style LSE practices of old is fed to the meat grinder. Hedge Funds, with the help of friendly Pundits and Analysts, argue any deviations as bad practice, wrongdoing, or an evil force.
“It’s laughable. Where were all the Hedge Funds, Analysts and Pundits ahead of Tesco’s £250m accounting scandal a few years ago? Or when BT recently had a similar issue in its Italian subsidiary? How did these LSE governance structures prevent the 2008 banking scandals, PPI or Libor rigging? And WANdisco a few weeks ago – really?”
London’s main market watchdog has started drafting plans to make the City a more attractive place for companies to list shares. The FCA proposes to make London’s rules “more effective, easier to understand and more competitive” by replacing the current system of two tiers of shares with one single class of stock.
Moulding said he has contributed to a study undertaken by Lord Hill into City governance and welcomed the changes proposed, although pointed out that these changes alone will do little for the LSE.
“Every company listing in London needs full approval on all aspects of the business, including Governance and Related Parties,” Moulding said.
Listings in the UK plunged by 40% since 2008 according to data from The UK Listing Review.
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Citing over 2,000 allegations of foul play lodged with the FCA last year, Moulding highlighted “FCA’s own survey finding the vast majority ‘extremely dissatisfied’ with a lack of action or engagement from the FCA”.
“Instead, whistleblowers now often turn to the US regulator as a means of bringing an action in London. Many doubt real change can happen while the FCA continues to be closely supported by an advisory panel made up of the very people it is policing in the City.”
He mentioned recent scandals, such as the alleged massive fraud at WANdisco that prompted it to announce plans to cut 30% of its workforce. The technology group recorded “significant, sophisticated and potentially fraudulent irregularities” that could mean the group’s whole revenue for 2022 could be as low as $9 million (£7.6 million) and not $24 million (£20.2 million) as previously reported.
“Amazon, Meta, Apple, Google – have they really had more scandals than our old economy companies that dominate the LSE? Not even close, and yet each one is many times bigger than the whole of the LSE combined,” he said.
Moulding suggests that the key lesson from this isn’t more rule changes, “but giving our regulator the resources to tackle the well-known bad actors using the LSE as their private piggy bank. Doubling both staff pay and the team at the FCA would be the best investment we could make in London.”
“A regulator that protects Founders, Boards and Investors alike, instead of shielding Investment Bankers, Hedge Funds and Pundits, is what it takes to make the LSE attractive once again,” Moulding added.