FSA drops charges against Kirkland client Semperian

The FSA brought criminal proceedings against Semperian under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 after it alleged that the company had not sought approval for the acquisition of a rival business in 2009. This is despite the regulator giving retrospective approval.

Kirkland represented Semperian along with Hodge Malek QC of  London set 4-5 Gray’s Inn Sqaure. Regulatory partner Lisa Cawley led the Kirkland team, assisted by litigation partner Chris Colbridge and Semperian relationship partner Mark Mifsud.

Peters & Peters represented William Doughty, who was chief executive at the time of the deal, with special counsel Monty Raphael, regulatory partner Neil Swift and litigation partner Sarah Gabriel leading. The firm instructed Nicholas Purnell QC of London’s Cloth Fair Chambers.

Charges against two entities belonging to Semperian, as well as Doughty, were withdrawn, while a third entity entered a guilty plea at Westminster Magistrates Court and was fined £1,000. Deputy District Judge Richard Barron ordered that the defence costs of the entities whose charges were dropped be paid from central funds.

The case has been seen as a blow to the FSA, with the regulator thought to be keen to tighten the enforcement of its financial controls.

Only one criminal prosecution has been brought before under the act, when Vijay Sharma was fined £3,000 for not giving prior notice when he purchased a firm.

One lawyer familiar with the case said: “It’s a surprise that they chose this case above all others to bring charges. The only other case arose out of very different circumstances.”

Cawley said: “The judge recognised that our client acted in good faith at all times and took due account of the fact that in the past the FSA has routinely given retrospective approval to changes of control.”