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U.K. Regulators under Fire as a Fund’s Liquidity Woes Echo Third Avenue Fund Collapse

As U.S. mutual funds begin to comply with the requirements of the Liquidity Rule, U.K. regulators are facing the fallout from a fund collapse that echoes the 2015 failures of a Third Avenue Fund. A Wall Street Journal report detailed the woes of the Woodford Equity Income Fund, which suspended redemptions after continued investor withdrawals, including £560 million redeemed in just the past few weeks. The Woodford Equity Income Fund’s liquidity problems were linked to three biotech stocks, which made up 11 percent of the fund’s portfolio.  According to Morningstar data quoted in the WSJ report, the fund peaked at £10.2 billion since its 2014 launch but declining performance led to increasing withdrawals. Its current £3.7 billion of assets are down from £6.8 billion a year ago and the fund’s total returns for 2018 were minus -16.5%, according to Morningstar. A Financial Times report focuses on the Financial Conduct Authority’s role in the fund’s crisis. The FCA’s critics say the U.K. agency should have responded more quickly to protect investors and charge that the fund’s suspension of redemptions reveals investors’ lack of confidence in the FCA’s ability to regulate funds. The Woodford fund is governed by the European Union’s UCITS directive, which aims to ensure that funds are highly liquid and protects investors from unnecessary risk, according to the FT report. However, critics say the UCITS directive is ambiguous on fund liquidity. 

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