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TONY HETHERINGTON: Obatan offer not a shares scam, just a nasty deal


Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the reality that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for individuals who have been left out-of-pocket. Discover how you can contact him below. 

Ms M.J. writes: I even have been scammed by Obatan. 

I filled in a form and sent off my Sun Life Financial share certificate as Obatan said they were willing to purchase my shares, but I even have since received nothing.

Offer: Obatan relies in Glendale, California

Tony Hetherington replies: Let me say one thing immediately. You contacted me at a time when the Financial Conduct Authority had issued a public warning that Obatan is perhaps providing financial services without its approval. It told everyone to ‘be wary of coping with this unauthorised firm’ and advised on ‘steps you need to take to guard yourself from scams’. 

About 4 weeks later, the FCA withdrew every word of this. It announced: ‘The FCA doesn’t, on the data presently available to it, imagine that Obatan LLC is carrying out activities within the UK for which it requires to be authorised.’ 

So, what are those activities exactly? Well, Obatan – which relies in Glendale in California – has contacted shareholders in a variety of corporations, offering what are called ‘mini-tenders’. In a nutshell, it offers to purchase their shares. This is totally legal, but rotten value for anyone who accepts. And since Obatan says it would only buy a modest stake within the goal company, it just isn’t caught by the traditional rules involving takeover bids. 

Sun Life Financial emphatically said that it didn’t recommend or endorse the offer, which was for £26 per share. This was about 39 per cent below the worth you can have received on the stock market. 

I imagine you missed this warning since you accepted the offer and sent your share certificate to Share Registrars, an organization in Surrey that acted for Obatan. I asked Share Registrars for a comment and was immediately contacted by Obatan’s London-based lawyers, Edwin Coe. 

Firing an unnecessary shot across my bows, the firm’s Russel Shear told me: ‘Please note that our client’s rights are reserved in respect of any information you select to publish which is defamatory.’ He described the FCA’s warning as ‘wholly incorrect’, and added that the mini-tender offer had the truth is been approved by someone authorised by the FCA. 

Shear explained that Obatan was simply ‘providing an answer to accepting shareholders to get rid of their shares which won’t otherwise be available to shareholders resident within the UK’. 

I asked what was the issue that required an answer, and Shear told me it was the incontrovertible fact that Sun Life Financial shares will not be listed within the UK. That is true, but they’ve a correct listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange, in order that they can easily be sold through a UK broker. 

Neither Shear nor Share Registrars would tell me who’s the FCAauthorised one who approved the offer, and Shear told me to stop asking questions as Obatan didn’t want what he described as an ‘ongoing debate’. 

While all this was happening, you received a cheque for £3,354 as payment on your shares. For those who had sold them through a broker as a substitute of to Obatan, you’ll have received about £2,000 more. 

Obatan has made similar mini-tender offers for shares in other corporations, including Great-West Lifeco – which owns Canada Life – and Manulife. In each case, the offers are 30 to 40 per cent below the stock market price. 

That is like me going to my round the corner neighbour and offering to purchase his £20,000 automotive for £12,000. It’s perfectly legal, and if my neighbour one way or the other assumes that I’m being helpful and accepts the offer, then I get his automotive at knockdown price. But for him, identical to Obatan’s offer to you and other investors, it is actually, really rotten value.

Where did my BA air miles go?

J.H. writes: I’m in dispute with BA, whose staff deleted my Executive Club membership from its system unexpectedly. I did have over 550,000 Avios air miles. 

BA has given quite a lot of reasons, starting from data protection to inactivity. The inactivity was attributable to serious illness within the family and travel restrictions due to Covid.

Now it says it cannot locate my details on its system, which is after all since it has deleted my account.

Sting in the tail: BA staff deleted J.H.'s Executive Club membership from its system without warning

Sting within the tail: BA staff deleted J.H.’s Executive Club membership from its system unexpectedly

Tony Hetherington replies: BA told me that your account and all of your air miles were deleted because the foundations of the scheme say that you could use your account at the least once every 36 months. 

But you could have explained that your daughter had a serious long-term medical issue, culminating in surgery several months ago. This, along with the pandemic, kept you on the bottom.

It was not until your daughter had recovered sufficiently that you just tried to make a booking to take her to the US for a vacation, only to search out that your Avios air miles had vanished. I’m very completely satisfied to say that BA has reconsidered. 

The airline told me: ‘Attributable to the numerous amount Mr H had in his previous account, and that he wants to make use of them for his daughter, our team has on this occasion reactivated the Avios.’ Have a very good holiday!

We’re watching you 

A pair of South London fraudsters who cheated 2,000 investors out of £37million have each been jailed for 11 years. 

Andrew Nathaniel Skeene, 44, and Junie Conrad Omari Bowers, 45, were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court last Wednesday after being convicted a number of weeks ago of conspiracy to defraud. 

The duo were behind Global Forestry Investments, which they launched in 2009, claiming it was an ethical scheme to plant and grow teak trees in Brazil. 

Jailed: Junie Bowers, left, and Andrew Skeene cheated investors

Jailed: Junie Bowers, left, and Andrew Skeene cheated investors

Advertisements offered an annual yield of 12 per cent, but I warned on the time that Skeene was already behind a dodgy scheme that promised a 30 per cent return from property developments in Dubai. 

Global Forestry Investments collapsed in 2014 and Skeene and Bowers were declared bankrupt. The Serious Fraud Office opened an investigation in 2015 and the 2 men were charged in 2019. SFO investigators found that just about no work was done on the Brazilian plantations. The pair had withdrawn about £750,000 in money and were known to have spent an additional £2million of investors’ money on luxury living and entertainment. 

Skeene paid for his lavish wedding with investors’ savings and pension pots, and Bowers bought a Bentley Continental GT. Lisa Osofsky, head of the SFO, said: ‘The sentencing warns fraudsters that in the event that they decide to play fast and loose with others’ hard-earned savings or pensions, we’ll pursue them they usually will probably be held accountable for his or her crimes.’ The SFO is bringing seven more fraud cases to court by the tip of the yr, involving 18 defendants and greater than £500million.

For those who imagine you’re the victim of economic wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email tony.hetherington@mailonsunday.co.uk. Due to the high volume of enquiries, personal replies can’t be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret can’t be returned. 

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