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FCA lifts sanctions on Wirecard UK; US operations up for sale

FCA lifts sanctions on Wirecard UK; US operations up for sale

The Financial Conduct Authority has lifted restrictions imposed on Wirecard UK, enabling the distressed firm to resume operational activity amid fears that a longer suspension could have done irreparable damage to the country's fintech sector.

The watchdog was coming under increasing pressure from lobby groups supporting the UK fintech industry to speed up the process or risk a crisis of confidence in the sector and the potential failure of dozens of firms.

In a statement, the FCA says its primary objective in imposing sanctions on Wirecard had been to protect the interests and money of consumers who use the firm.

"We know that some people may have faced difficulties over the weekend and we worked with DWP, HMT and the Home Office in order to help anyone suffering financial distress," states the regulator. "We continue to work with the firm and are monitoring it closely to ensure it meets the conditions we have imposed and continues to protect consumers money."

The news will comes as a relief to the hundred or so fintech firms who relied on the stricken payment processor for operational support and were besieged by customers demanding access to their cash.

Some restrictions related to where Wirecard can hold customer monies and over the firm's ability to transfer its own assets remain in place.

In a statement, Wirecard UK says: "There may be a delay before all card programmes are fully operational, so some customers could find themselves unable to transact immediately but we anticipate this lasting no longer than 24 hours."

Meanwhile, Wirecard’s US subsidiary has announced it is putting itself up for sale. It said in a statement that cardholders and client funds “remain safe and protected”.

Wirecard North America was formerly the Citi Prepaid Card Services business, which Wirecard AG acquired in 2016.

Seth Brennan, managing director of Wirecard North America, says: “Wirecard North America continues to operate without any disruption to clients and cardholders. The strong, independent cash flow and financial position of Wirecard North America allow us to operate the business on a completely standalone basis."

Referring to reports that Visa and Mastercard were preparing to cut relationships with Wirecard, the company reassures that it leverages licenses on behalf of its bank partners - Sunrise Banks, Fifth Third Bank and Peoples Trust Company - and does not hold these directly.

The repurcussions from the Wirecard debacle are being felt worldwide and directly hitting smaller fintech firms that relied on the company for payment processing and licencins. One of the first to go under is Stick.Cash, which provides accounts for social media creators and influencers. The Swiss company, which counts users in the US, EU and Asia, has frozen all accounts and shut down its platform.

"Due to crushing losses, we do not have any realistic ways and permissions to be involved in financial transactions, not only in the European Union, but also in the US," says founder Victor Koch.

Comments: (1)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 01 July, 2020, 09:451 like 1 like

According to the EBA outsourcing rules the users of a troubled provider should be able to rapidly take back the outsourcing from the provider should there be a problem with the provider being able to perform its duties. Also the outsourcer should closely monitor the provider at all times to see that it can perform its duties and react without delay if doubt arises. Disturbing news on the condition of WC has been out for a long time. Did the outsourcers properly assess the risks in WC and did they act accordingly?  Does different rules apply to card issuers and payment service providers   that call themselves "fintech" companies compared to the "high-street banks"?