The U.K. Financial Services Authority (“FSA”) announced today that it has won summary judgment against Stephen Watkins and his firm, Consolidated Land UK. Watkins has been ordered to pay £920,000 back to his victims, and is banned from selling land in the UK.
Through his company, Consolidated Lank UK, Watkins sold plots of land worth over £11 million in total, making himself a substantial profit. Almost all of this land was subject to planning restrictions. Watkins told customers that he would help them to sell the land for a profit (presumably by getting the restrictions lifted). However, Watkins and his firm had no intention of helping the new landowners. Many of them invested their life savings in that land, and have sustained significant losses.
Though the FSA does not typically regulate land sales, Consolidated Land UK operated like a land bank, which is subject to regulation. Not only was Watkins operating his firm without properly registering, he fraudulently solicited and mislead investors. “Anybody investing in land should always have it independently valued to check its worth. Furthermore, if you are ever sold land as an investment, and on the basis that someone else will manage it for you as part of a wider site, you should seek the advice of an independent financial adviser authorised by the FSA,” said FSA enforcement director Tracey McDermott.