James Moore: The watchdogs must now land some bigger fish

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The Independent Online

Simon Eagle operated at the fag end of the City, and a repeat of his scam is unlikely today.

So called "shell" companies, with cash in the bank but no operating subsidiaries, have been responsible for a multitude of sins. They were often the leftover wrecks from the dot-com era, and allowed a network of people to make money from the meagre piles of cash they had accumulated after their operating businesses had been sold for a song. All of them had to have directors, advisers and brokers, who happily picked over the bones while their investors got more and more frustrated.

Fed up with the bad publicity, the stock exchange booted them off the market a few years ago. However, their toxic legacy lives on. Yesterday's case was hardly a big and nasty fraud involving the spectacularly wealthy and amoral plutocrats we know are out there. While it looks sophisticated and took a degree of market savvy, it's actually rather low rent; a nasty, down-and- dirty little scheme that was probably always going to get found out.

The FSA is chary of revealing detail about investigations, but there are probably more Simon Eagles out there. The penalty looks tough, and will make being Simon Eagle unpleasant, but he's only got himself to blame for delaying the inevitable.

Kudos to the watchdogs for getting him. A scam is a scam after all. But if the financial cops are really to prove their mettle, they need to fry bigger fish.

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