Two financial advisers have been fined a combined £885,000 and banned from working in the industry after advising hundreds of clients to invest their life savings into risky property firms.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said Mark Bentley-Leek and Mustafa Dervish, who were both directors of now-collapsed Bentley Leek Financial Management in Surrey, lacked integrity and misled clients after leaving many investors facing substantial losses on their life savings and pension cash.
More than 300 clients were advised to invest more than £35 million in a series of property developments in the UK and abroad, with some investors told returns of 6% to 18% were guaranteed and up to 50% could even be expected.
Mr Bentley-Leek and Mr Dervish failed to warn of the riskiness of the investments, made between March 2004 and November 2010, and also kept quiet about their involvement as directors and owners of some of the development companies.
The financial crisis plunged the property firms into difficulty as bank lending seized up, but they continued to advise clients to invest.
Their firm Bentley Leek Financial Management collapsed into administration in November 2011.
It is hoped clients affected may be entitled to some compensation, with the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) currently looking at the issue.
Tracey McDermott, director of enforcement and financial crime at the FCA, said: "Many consumers committed their life savings or their pensions to these property investments as they trusted Mr Bentley-Leek and Mr Dervish's advice.
"The least consumers should expect from those they turn to for investment advice is honesty and integrity.
"Bentley-Leek and Dervish fell far short of our expectations, they failed their customers and further tarnished the name of the financial services industry."
Mr Bentley-Leek and Mr Dervish have been fined £525,000 and £360,000 respectively.
Those affected by bad investment advice provided by Bentley-Leek Financial Management should contact the FSCS on 0800 678 1100.