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FSA executes search warrants on Castlestone's offices

From News Jul 20 2011 BY: Kira Nickerson , News reporter , Portfolio Adviser

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The FSA is investigating Castlestone Management but is not detailing what it is looking for in its search of several premises connected to the group.

All the regulator will say on the matter is that it issued “search warrants on two premises in London and one in Chichester. The FSA's regulatory investigation is on-going.”

The FSA says its issuance of search warrants may be infrequent but not uncommon and can involve anything from investigations into market abuse, insider dealing, regulatory breaches or simple fact-finding. It will not disclose what terms the warrants in the case cover or what it is looking for.

Castlestone runs a number of commodity-based funds, many of which feature direct commodity exposure as opposed to investing in the underlying equities. An investment committee of eight, headed by the firm’s CEO Angus Murray, manages the portfolios.

The investment committee has seen several departures over the past two months, the most recent of which is commodities analyst Connor Noonan; Bradley Tim and Arrash Zafari left in May.

Earlier this month the firm’s head of compliance, Ed Williamson, also parted ways with the group. Several other compliance and trading team members have also reportedly left the company since April.

Castlestone offers 15 funds, only four of which are structured as Ucits and distributed in the UK. The $4.17m Aliquot Precious Metals fund launched in June and offers exposure to gold, silver, platinum, copper and zinc via asset swaps. It has so far returned -1.15%, according to the group’s own factsheet.

The $4.3m Intelligent Portfolio Asset Allocation fund is a multi-asset portfolio on offer since March 2010. Over one year the fund, the largest position of which is to the Canadian dollar, has fallen 5.96% in sterling terms.

The $34.7m Aliquot Commodity fund was launched in June 2008, uses index swaps as well as transferrable securities, and invests in precious metals, industrial metals as well as soft commodities, livestock and water.

Also launched in 2008 is the $19.64m Aliquot Agriculture portfolio, which likewise uses index swaps to gain exposure to soft commodities, livestock grains and alternative energy. Over one year this fund is up more than 44% in dollar terms.

All four Ucits funds are domiciled in Ireland. On 1 June the Central Bank of Ireland temporarily suspended subscriptions into the portfolios but this was lifted on 10 June.

Castlestone has released a statement confirming the FSA investigation is taking place. It said: "Castlestone Management Limited can confirm that its premises were visited by the FSA this morning as part of a  regulatory investigation. The company is cooperating fully with that investigation. A further statement will be made by the company as soon as possible."

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