The Times of London has revealed that of the £60 million commission paid by London Capital & Finance to its marketing agent Surge, £26 million was spent on marketing, of which £20 million went to Google.
Google was paid more than £20 million to promote high-risk mini-bonds for London Capital & Finance, the collapsed investment firm at the centre of a fraud investigation.
The Times has learnt that Surge Group, a digital marketing firm that was contracted by LCF to raise capital from investors, used the bulk of the money it spent on marketing to buy advertising via the search engine giant.
A person close to the matter said Surge spent about £26 million on marketing for LCF between 2015 and last year, with about 90 per cent of that sum going to Google.
[An expanded version of a Twitter rant posted last Monday ago.]
According to IFA trade rag Money Marketing, investors in London Capital and Finance are very angry that the Financial Conduct Authority has repeatedly referred to the loan notes in which they invested, marketed by LCF as "secured bonds", as mini-bonds.
So what is a mini-bond and why are LCF investors annoyed about the label? The FCA says (in an article belatedly posted last month) "There is no legal definition of a ‘mini-bond’, but the term usually refers to illiquid debt securities marketed to retail investors."
Jim Armitage at the Evening Standard reports that administrators are investigating the role played in the collapse of London Capital & Finance by John Russell-Murphy, who pitched LCF bonds in person to wealthier investors.
The Evening Standard has spoken to 10 clients of LCF who invested between £100,000 and £580,000 and allege Russell-Murphy gave them financial advice that experts have suggested he was not allowed to give under Financial Conduct Authority rules because he is not a regulated adviser.
One, a severely disabled woman in her late seventies, claimed he had visited her at her home, looked at the paperwork for her existing savings and recommended she put £100,000 of her entire £150,000 into LCF. The former charity worker said: “I told him I had to keep back £20,000 for my grandchild’s university bills but he said if I invested £100,000 with LCF the interest would pay for them and I wouldn’t lose the capital. Now it looks like it’s all gone."
Harewood Associates offered unregulated investments in property from 2010 onwards. From at least 2013 the company offered unregulated loan notes, with typical rates of up to 12% per year.
Last week Harewood went into administration, with Begbies Traynor appointed as administrators. The administration is not yet visible on Companies House but has been publicly announced by Begbies Traynor.
According to Harewood Associates' last accounts for December 2018, the company owed £32.8 million at that time. If accurate, this makes Harewood the second biggest collapse of a company issuing unregulated bonds directly to the public in 2019, beating MJS Capital's £20 - 30 million (though dwarfed by the £230 million of London Capital & Finance).
David Rubin and Partners has been appointed to liquidate MJS Capital (now known as Colarb Capital).
MJS collapsed early in 2018 and was finally put into liquidation in March 2019. It allegedly took £30 million from bondholders.
After a five-way beauty parade between rival insolvency practitioners seeking the appointment, David Rubin & Partners was given the job last month, according to a recent filing with Companies House.
Secured Energy Bonds, which collapsed in 2015 owing £7.5 million to investors, has been moved from administration to liquidation.
Throughout the administration the administrators have recovered £289,000 from SEB’s assets, and spent almost all of it. £275,000 has been spent on the costs of the administration, mostly administrators’ fees (£85k), legal fees (£107k) and VAT (£43k).
Other than shares in BlueNRGY Group, which is still attempting to regain entry to the NASDAQ market and whose value is unknown, the main item on SEB’s books is an outstanding claim of £5.8 million plus costs against Independent Portfolio Managers, the FCA-authorised company that signed off SEB’s misleading literature.
The administrators of "possible Ponzi scheme" Privilege Wealth have filed their latest six-monthly progress report earlier this month.
Since the last update, no further recoveries have been made to date and the total recovered from the scheme remains just under £91,000. Costs of the administration rose to £83,000, with the increase in the period consisting almost entirely of a further £39,000 in legal fees spent on attempting to gain control of Privilege's assets. The administrators have not received any further fees since the last update, as their fees are fixed at 30% of recoveries.
The most eye-catching item in the progress report is that the administrators now have a figure for the potential value of the Rosebud lending loan book, a portfolio of payday loans to members of the Sioux Indian tribe of South Dakota.