The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is urging members of the public who invested in an unauthorised land banking scheme, and who may be eligible to receive some of their money back, to get in contact with the FCA.
Between late 2009 and May 2011, members of the public invested approximately £3m in an unauthorised collective investment scheme established and operated by Synergy Land Group Limited and its director, Samuel Exall trading as Synergy Land Group.
Synergy used high pressure sales techniques to persuade members of the public to buy small plots of land from two larger sites which were marketed as Cheltenham Manor on the basis that Synergy would collectively manage and subsequently sell the sites as a whole. Synergy promised investors that it would obtain planning permission for the sites and negotiate with a developer in order to realise a large profit for individual investors. These arrangements meant that Synergy and Mr Exall were carrying on business as a collective investment scheme (CIS).
While the FCA does not regulate the sale of land, it does regulate collective investment schemes (CIS) and a firm must be authorised by the FCA to promote or operate a CIS in the UK. Neither Synergy nor Mr Exall were authorised.
The Synergy land banking scheme was investigated by the FCA and in June 2011 the FCA commenced civil action against Synergy and Mr Exall resulting in the FCA obtaining orders freezing their assets and stopping the unlawful activity.
Mr Exall was subsequently prosecuted by the City of London Police for conspiracy to commit fraud relating to his involvement in a number of land banking schemes and in October 2016 he was convicted and sentenced to 4 years in prison. He was also disqualified from acting as a company director for 7 years.
The FCA has recently recovered a sum of money following the realisation of assets which Mr Exall was ordered to sell, which the FCA is required to distribute to investors who purchased plots of land from Synergy/Mr Exall.
The FCA urges investors who think they might have invested, or might recall family members investing in this scheme, to get in contact.
Mark Steward, Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight at the FCA, said:
‘If you believe you were an investor in this unauthorised scheme, please get in contact with us. Although we will only be able to return a small sum to eligible investors, we are keen to ensure that as many investors as possible benefit from our work to secure and realise assets.’
Investors who have not yet contacted the FCA, should do so even if they no longer have records or documentation relating to the investment. In the first instance, they should email: [email protected] or write to the FCA at Freepost RTZE–RHAL–URAJ, for the attention of UBD AJS RE01079, Financial Conduct Authority, 12 Endeavour Square, London E20 1JN.
Notes to editors
- If you are considering making an investment in land, see the FCA’s information on land banking investment scams.
- If you think you may have been approached by an unauthorised firm or individual, you can check the FCA’s Warning List.
- On 1 April 2013, the FCA became responsible for the conduct supervision of all regulated financial firms and the prudential supervision of those not supervised by the Prudential Regulation Authority.
- The FCA has an overarching strategic objective of ensuring the relevant markets function well. To support this, it has three operational objectives: to secure an appropriate degree of protection for consumers; to protect and enhance the integrity of the UK financial system; and to promote effective competition in the interests of consumers.
- Find out more information about the FCA.