7th February 2022
Gary Woods is, apparently, a bloodstock agent and he is also, apparently, the founder of Empire International Bloodstock but I had never heard of Mr. Woods or his bloodstock agency prior to his being accused, a few days ago, of defrauding a syndicate of owners by failing to tell them that their horse was dead until he had extracted £6,000 in training fees from them.
His actions have led to another call from Lee Mottershead for the licensing of bloodstock agents in order to ‘reduce the possibility of anything like this happening again’. Would it reduce the possibility of anything like this happening again? I’m not so sure.
There may be other people who are acting as bloodstock agents and managing syndicates, in fact I suspect that there almost certainly are, but I am struggling to immediately think of one. Mr. Woods, as far as I can determine from the little we know about the case, was principally acting here as a syndicate manager rather than as a bloodstock agent. He is not, as far as I am aware, accused of malpractice in any activity that we would normally associate with bloodstock agents or that Lee Mottershead is seeking to have controlled by licensing.
I am not, particularly, against the idea of licensing bloodstock agents but I am wary of more layers of unnecessary bureaucracy and of unintended consequences. I would hate to see any restrictions on free trade, as we see in financial services, with buyers forced to use a licensed agent in order to make purchases. While Lee Mottershead and Justin Felice, who conducted the review of buying and selling practices, assume that licensing of bloodstock agents will afford greater protection for customers, theirs is a simplistic view and they have not, as far as I am aware, given much detail on how it would work. Consider, for example, some auctions of motor vehicles which are restricted to ‘the trade’, where bids will only be accepted from registered or bona fide traders. This may be portrayed as a way of protecting buyers, vendors and the auction house but, in reality, it allows the potential for the operation of cartels and guarantees a position for a ‘middle-man’ in every transaction.
Lee Mottershead points to a number of people naming themselves as agent at a recent sale and states that ‘it is hard to see why they or anyone else involved in buying horses would have any objection to being licensed’. Well, Lee, I would object to needing to be licensed to spend my own money or to being forced to use a licensed agent in order to do so.