How Did IronFX Clients’ Withdrawal Issues Trigger a CySEC Investigation?

"The violations are related to the bonus promotions offered by IronFX, similar to a number of promotions offered by competitors,"

It has been almost a year since IronFX has been on the radar of a number of media outlets. Chinese TV has paid attention to claims about the broker’s misconduct in mainland China, notable online forum for traders, Forex Peace Army declaring the brokerage a scam, while readers of various online trading forums are posting screenshots of their withdrawals pending for months.

The latest assortment of attention has come from Hungarian and German blogs, while the broker’s Russian clients have been reporting issues with getting in touch with their “account managers.” Just a little more than a year after IronFX opened its office in Russia, the firm decided to pull out of the market and withdrew its license from the Russian self regulatory body CRFIN.

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A company representative explained to Finance Magnates’ reporters at the time that the event was part of the folding of a business which was outside of its core regions of operation. The company has claimed that it doesn’t need to have a license at both the Russian and the Ukrainian self-regulatory bodies.

Choosing to keep the Ukrainian self-regulatory organization membership has done quite the opposite in reassuring the broker’s Russian clients, who have flocked to IronFX to file withdrawal requests. Reports about lack of response on the part of the broker have been circulating throughout Russian forex trading forums for weeks now.

CySEC Announces an Official Investigation

Yesterday, the chief regulator of IronFX Global, the subsidiary of the brokerage operating worldwide under a Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) license, announced the commencement of an official investigation into the business conduct of IronFX. While it’s probably going to take quite a while before we see any results from the official review, it’s worth elaborating on the issues that led to this development.

There is no conclusive publicly available proof that the accounts in question are or aren’t bonus abusers. While the clients claim that they haven’t done anything wrong, IronFX claims that the company’s promotion system has been taken advantage of.. The full picture should become available to the Cypriot regulator that now has responsibility to prove its credibility on the global regulatory stage.

There are isolated cases of several clients who have shown Finance Magnates’ reporters statements from their accounts which have never been credited with a bonus. However, the company claims that those could still be involved in a violation of terms and conditions.

The official representative of IronFX has shared with Finance Magnates’ reporters, “Several of the bonus abuse investigations have been concluded. We undertake a formal internal process to identify the level of abuse, if any, and the amount that is eligible for withdrawal.”

“The first set of investigations related to formal complaints has resulted that only 6% of the accounts have an available balance to withdraw. The rest of the accounts have no available balance as a result of the promotions abuse,” the spokesperson concluded.

There has been no further elaboration as to how the company’s clients managed to take advantage of the promotion system, as well as how it could have triggered such a big outcry against IronFx on such a massive scale. The broker has stated that 86 percent of the total complaints are related to Chinese clients and some of them have already settled on their balances available for withdrawal without protest.

Elaborating on why some accounts which have never received a bonus are under investigation, the company’s spokesperson stated, “We have several physical persons that have multiple accounts under the same person. There are cases where the same physical person has an account that has received bonus, while the same person has an account without bonus. Through the parallel trading in all accounts, the person has abused our terms and conditions and the available balance to withdraw is affected in both accounts.”

There seems to be no end in sight for clients who are awaiting a decision on their accounts. By failing to communicate its issues in a timely manner, as was done for example by Plus500 back in May, when the company ended up on the radar of the U.K. FCA, IronFX is risking its reputation. Some cases have been left hanging in the air for weeks and months and the broker has failed to address its clients’ requests and concerns in a timely manner.

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The process raises some eyebrows amongst clients. One of the customers of the firm who got a “nil balance” letter asked, “How can a “final settlement” be reached unilaterally and are clients presented with the full proof before they agree to the claims that IronFX presents them with?”

In some court cases filed against IronFX by Chinese clients there has been proof and Finance Magnates’ reporters have seen some documents signed by clients who agreed to withdraw amounts which are considerably less than they claimed.

Yet, if IronFX wants to dispel all the harmful chatter that is going around the web against the broker, it will have to present all of its clients with proof that they have violated the company’s terms and conditions. Instead, some customers have received emails from the firm stating that their balance is nil, without the broker providing any supporting evidence as to why.

Waiting for the Results from a Regulatory Investigation

A corporate account pending withdrawals worth thousands of US dollars has been in a withdrawal queue for more than two months. According to the owner of the account his calls and emails to IronFX have remained unanswered.

A number of complaints have been filed with the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC). Finance Magnates’ reporters contacted the chairman of the regulator, but at the time of publication have not received a response.

A client who complained to the regulator has shared the answer the regulatory body sent him after his filing: “Depending on the outcome of the investigation the case will be brought to the Council of the CySEC for taking any measures deemed necessary if the entity being investigated has been found to have violated the laws the enforcement of which has been entrusted to the CySEC.”

“Although the CySEC has powers to take measures (which include monetary sanctions) against CIFs, it has no powers to order the payment of compensation/restitution of damages suffered. The policy of the CySEC is to announce any sanctions imposed on its supervised entities. Apart from this announcement, as a matter of policy, no other information is provided regarding on-going investigations,” the watchdog’s explanation concluded.

The statement provided by the regulator to IronFX’s clients effectively signifies that CySEC is unlikely to share any information publicly about its investigations before concluding those. In addition, the watchdog has clarified that it is not responsible for the recovery of client funds from any broker.

Weeks of Withdrawal Issues at IronFX

IronFX risks its credibility if the withdrawal requests of numerous clients remain suspended for a number of weeks. From an industry perspective a withdrawal request shouldn’t take more than one working day, and according to the experience of the author of this article, usually even less.

Speaking to Finance Magnates’ reporters a company spokesperson for IronFX elaborated on the accounts affected by bonus abuse, “The violations are related to the bonus promotions offered by IronFX, similar to a number of promotions offered by other competitors. Abuse of such promotions has increasingly become an industry-wide event.”

That said, there haven’t been other brokers whose clients have been as vocal about withdrawal issues as the clients of IronFX have been.

“The company is addressing this issue with its legal advisers but this has no material impact on the current business of the company. These complaints amount to 0.17% of the active client base of the company,” the spokesperson explained.

Asked about why investigations and withdrawals are taking so long, the company declined to elaborate further.

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