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Flirting with finance: Love Islanders caught in the FCA's net

Posted on 23 May 2024

The Financial Conduct Authority (the FCA) have taken decisive action against seven reality TV stars, charging them with the promotion of an unauthorised financial trading scheme. This move aligns with the FCA's guidance, published in March 2024, which targets financial promotions on social media, and demonstrates their determination to regulate the influence of 'finfluencers'. Nikhil Rathi, the FCA's chief executive had previously signalled a readiness to pursue both social media platforms and the influencers themselves, particularly due to the potential risks posed to younger and self-directed investors.

The rise of social media as a platform for financial advice and product promotion has been meteoric. On TikTok, a niche known as 'FinTok' has emerged, where influencers, often with limited financial expertise, disseminate financial tips and advice. However, concerns over the promotion of high-risk investments to a broad, unscreened audience led TikTok to prohibit the promotion of financial services and products, including cryptocurrencies, investment services, and foreign exchange.

Central to the FCA's allegations is Emmanuel Nwanze, accused of operating an unlicensed financial exchange investment scheme. Nwanze, in collaboration with Holly Thompson, is said to have used the Instagram account "@holly_fxtrends" to provide guidance on trading Contracts for Difference (CFDs), which are speculative, high-risk financial instruments.

The FCA claims that Nwanze compensated stars from 'Love Island'—Biggs Chris, Jamie Clayton, Rebecca Gormley, Eva Zapico—and 'The Only Way is Essex' celebrities Lauren Goodger and Yazmin Oukhellou, as well as 'Geordie Shore's' Scott Timlin, to endorse the Instagram account. These promotions reached an audience of over 4 million followers across their personal social media accounts.

Nwanze is facing two charges: one for operating without FCA authorisation, breaching section 19 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA), and another for contravening section 21 of FSMA, related to financial promotions. These offences carry the possibility of a fine and/or up to two years' imprisonment upon conviction.

The reality TV stars involved are each charged with one count of breaching section 21 of FSMA. They are set to appear before Westminster Magistrates' Court on June 13, 2024.


Since the London Capital & Finance scandal, the FCA has devoted a significant amount of resource into countering promotions that are unlawful or breach FCA financial promotion rules. In most cases, FCA intervention results in the amendment or withdrawal of financial promotions without any further action and each quarter the FCA publishes details of the numbers of cases where it has intervened (for example in Q1 2024 the FCA reports that its interventions resulted in 2,211 promotions being amended or withdrawn). In this case the FCA has decided to prosecute and it will be delighted that the publicity generated by the involvement of reality TV celebrities has boosted the reach of its message.

Influencers are subject to the same laws and regulations as any other business. Any involvement in promoting financial services is particularly risky because of its heavy regulation. The rules are complicated and unless an influencer is dealing with an established FCA regulated firm or relies on professional advice, they will be at significant risk of public censure, criminal prosecution or even liability for losses suffered by investors.

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