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FCA seeks compensation for Park First investors

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has started proceedings against Park First Limited which ran, what the regulator describes as “an unlawful investment scheme” selling airport parking spaces.

Park First sold parking spaces close to Gatwick and Glasgow airports. Investments in the car parking schemes were sold to individuals and corporates in the UK and internationally, both directly and through self-invested personal pensions.

But the companies failed because they did not have the funds to pay all investors who chose the “buyback” option offered to them, whereby they could sell back their investment following a specified number of years.

Four companies related to Park First were put into administration in July 2019 after the FCA monitored the company’s financial position.

The companies put into administration were: Park First Freeholds Ltd, Help Me Park Gatwick Ltd, Park First Glasgow Rentals Ltd, and Park First Gatwick Rentals Ltd. The move left about 4,500 investors facing an uncertain future.

The FCA is pursuing action against the firm’s senior managers, including its chief executive officer and a number of other companies connected to the Park First group. The regulator is seeking compensation orders in favour of investors in respect of losses they have suffered in the Park First scheme.

The FCA alleges the Park First scheme involved an illegal collective investment scheme established to operate car park investments using funds from members of the investing public. The scheme raised approximately £230m from 4,500 investors.

The FCA also alleges that the scheme was promoted to the public using false or misleading statements.

The defendants made statements to the effect that investors could realistically expect returns of 10 per cent in years three and four of their investment, and 12 per cent in years five and six. The FCA alleges the defendants had no proper basis for these statements which were false or misleading.

The defendants also suggested that the investments were worth 25 per cent more than the price for which they were being sold, based on independent valuations. However, the defendants were aware that the valuations were based on unrealistic returns.

The FCA is asking the court to order the defendants to pay a just sum to the FCA to then distribute among the investors who have suffered loss as a result of the defendants’ alleged contraventions.

The FCA is also seeking declarations that the schemes were collective investment schemes, that the defendants unlawfully established, operated and promoted them, and that the defendants made false or misleading statements about the schemes.

It’s also seeking an injunction restraining the defendants from setting up similar schemes in the future.

The FCA’s proceedings have been brought against chief executive Toby Scott Whittaker, director John Slater and a number of companies involved or connected to the scheme, including Park First Limited, Harley Scott Residential Limited (previously known as Park First Glasgow Limited), Park First Skyport Limited, Paypark Limited, Help-me-park.com Limited and Group First Global Limited.