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The FCA has begun criminal proceedings against five individuals involved with Worthington Group plc, a company formerly listed on the London Stock Exchange some years ago.
The FCA launched a criminal investigation into market abuse and market manipulation in April 2016, following the suspension of Worthington Group plc’s (WRN) shares from the Official List and Main Market of the London Stock Exchange (LSE) on 10 October 2014.
Mr Aidan Earley, Mr Ware, Mr Spurway and Mr Biggar have each been charged with two counts of fraudulent trading. Mr Ware was the director and CEO, Richard Spurway was a director, and Mr Biggar’s role was as a media advisor. Aiden Early is alleged to have been concerned in the management of WRN despite him being disqualified from acting as a company director. They are all alleged to have been involved in running the company.
The first count alleges that between the 1 June 2012 and 21 November 2016, the individuals knowingly concealed WRN’s insolvent financial position from the market, its shareholders and its pension fund to make gains for themselves or others, or to cause loss to others, including new investors in WRN.
The second count alleges that, between the 1 March 2013 and 10 October 2014, Aiden Early, Mr Ware, Mr Spurway and Mr Biggar co-ordinated what is commonly referred to as a ‘pump and dump scheme’. It is alleged that the defendants made a series of misleading announcements to the market about deals with energy, media and mining companies.
It is alleged that the accused wanted to artificially inflate the share price, so they could make significant profits from selling off parts of their company shareholdings, and cause a loss to those who purchased WRN shares due to the misleading statements.
Mr Aidan Earley has further been charged with acting in contravention of a disqualification order, contrary to section 13 of the Companies Directors Disqualification Act 1986.
Mr Wulstan Earley has been charged with money laundering the proceeds of the sale of shares in Worthington Group plc, contrary to section 327 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
The alleged offending took place between 1 June 2012 and 21 November 2016.
Mr Aidan Earley, Mr Ware, Mr Spurway, Mr Biggar and Mr Wulstan Earley appeared before Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 20 October 2022 and the matter was sent to Southwark Crown Court. Their next appearance at the Crown Court is on 17 November 2022.