Park First reportedly close to deal with FCA over illegal investment scheme allegations

According to reports in The Times, the FCA is close to a settlement with Park First and owner Toby Whittaker over the £230 million collapse of the scheme.

In late 2017 (not 2016 as the linked article has it), in an uncharacteristic burst of activity, the FCA shut the scheme down, alleging that in its current form it constituted an illegal collective investment scheme. Park First offered a “guaranteed yield” of 8% in the first two years, rising to 10% and 12% thereafter, mirroring the returns on offer from sister scheme Store First (which was Park First with self-storage sheds instead of airport parking spaces).

Investors were given the option of either switching to a different scheme which offered only 2% plus variable dividends, or getting their money back. Unsurprisingly, nearly all investors opted for the latter. By this point Park First no longer had the money. After a desultory attempt to flog the new 2% scheme to Russian investors (who were falsely told that the original investors had been repaid), Park First collapsed into administration.

Existing investors were offered a choice: switch to a new interaction scheme or sell parking lots to the company, having fully returned their money.
The company fulfilled its obligations to investors who left in full.
Investors who choose to stay already receive rental income and dividends.

Park First’s Russian Instagram page in March 2019, three months before it collapsed into administration (via Google Translate)

Whittaker has already (apparently) successfully walked away from the collapse of Park First’s sister scheme, Store First. In late 2019 the Official Receiver sold the freehold, associated assets and goodwill of Store First’s storage centres to Toby Whittaker’s wife for an undisclosed sum (which under UK matrimonial law is the same thing as selling them to Toby Whittaker himself). It said in a statement that this represented “the best outcome for creditors”. No returns were reportedly received by Store First investors, although they were given the ability to surrender the pods and their ongoing liability for business rates for free.

Whether Park First investors fare any better in any upcoming settlement remains to be seen. The FCA for its part says

In this complex case we have taken civil enforcement action alleging serious breaches of the Financial Services and Markets Act,’ a spokesperson said.

We are committed to ensuring that those running the firms account for their misconduct, including paying compensation to victims.

13 thoughts on “Park First reportedly close to deal with FCA over illegal investment scheme allegations

  1. Glad Somthing is being done
    my husband requestd buyback
    Don’t know if or how much he will get back from his pension investment

    Makes me so angry

  2. I believe Whittaker wants us all to sign a form saying he can’t be prosecuted.
    Hardly the action of an innocent man.
    He is definitely a scammer and a crook.
    I’d like to see him prosecuted.

  3. Whittaker and his associates need to be locked up after first returning our hard earned money. Scum.

  4. Why aren’t the FCA doing more? Whittaker and his wife should end up in jail and should hand over everything they own. Why should they sit in comfort when we’ve all had to go back to work to try and rake our pension monies back.
    They are just scum.

  5. Absolute discrace … FCA should do more . Pensioners and hard working people have been taken for a fat ride. Also FCA involvement in the first place that changed the dynamic of the investment…… they should follow through now.

  6. Im not trying to defend them but theres too much blame for everyones shortcomings. No one accepts responsibility in their greed of just looking at returns, lack of due diligence of the investment and also whoes involved only when it goes wrong everyone jumps on with the guilt ‘theyve taken my pension’ etc.

    If you dont like risk dont speculate in high risk alternative investment schemes and like every investment invest what you can afford to lose?!

  7. Naughty Toby has been bang at it for years, he is a nasty little piece of work if you manage to be able to challenge him in “person” about any of this, quite a violent individual and well known for it in the East Lancashire area.

    Steer Clear!!!.

  8. I am an investor in ParkFirst I understand that Whitaker has agreed to contribute a relatively modest amount to what is available to compensate investors I have never understood the point about ‘collective investments’ which was allegedly used by the FCA as a reason for intervening. Ownership of each parking space was individual not collective. The income was not ‘pooled.’ Ironically when the scheme was revised income from rent was then to be pooled and shared out equally so that if a space was not occupied the owner would still get a share . That sounds more like collective investment to me.
    ” Unsurprisingly nearly all the investors opted for the latter” (getting their money back) A real howler. Nearly all (90%) of the investors chose to stay with the scheme. Only 10% (including me) opted to sell their spaces back to the company . We have not however been repaid. How anyone having experienced being ‘shafted’ by this con-man choses to stay with the organisation beggars belief.

  9. It is high time this mess was resolved Smith and Williamson the administrators are certainly making the most of it and charging exorbitant sums for their so-called service.
    And talk about slow how much longer can they drag this out for. I appreciate it’s not in their interests to hurry the longer they take the greater their fee.
    They are in a very privileged position it seems that they are unregulated and not monitored in any way.
    The process is a clerical exercise it’s hardly leading-edge technology.
    The legal firm who handled the Buy-Back was so slow it beggars belief. Unfortunately, it’s the culture in the UK that these legal and financial thrive on.

  10. I agree with Louis Amit’s comment, having dealt with the FCA I found them beyond ineffectual, from my experience they demonstrated no understanding of the issues which needed resolving and failed to engage.
    The outcome was that I wasted a huge amount of my time involving these people in the naive belief that they would provide some constructive assistance. They frustrated me beyond belief.
    That’s a Government Quango for you, save yourself the bother don’t even go there. The term Not Fit for Purpose sums them up.

  11. We are hearing reports that The Hetherington Partnership, one of the law firms involved with Toby Whitaker, has finally been found guilty of dishonesty. We are told this will hit the press this week and that the SRA has put funds aside to compensate eligible investors.

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