The ongoing activities of the investors action group, seeking justice for Secured Energy Bonds (SEB), holders look to be bearing fruit.
Momentum has been picking up in Parliament, with some investors meeting with shadow justice minister Andrew Slaughter (Hammersmith) and Ian Austin (Dudley). They are just two of 85 MPs now contacted regarding the SEB scam. Both MPs are keen to help investors get their money back and push on with ensuring that a similar heist cannot be committed in the future. “Together with other MPs I’m working hard to make sure that investors are not left out of pocket. It’s important for investors to join the SEB Investors Action Group and contact their MPs to help us press the authorities for action," said Austin.
Also in Parliament, City minister, Harriet Baldwin has responded to Andrew Rosindell’s (Romford) question regarding what steps are being taken to “ensure that the Financial acts to prevent companies from fraudulently using capital raised from selling ring-fenced bonds to bail out poorly-performing parent companies.”
The minister confirmed that “the Government has legislated to ensure that the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), are fully empowered to maintain the integrity of the ring-fence, and to take action in preventing this type of misconduct.”
She continued: “The ring fencing regime includes requirements that directors of the ring-fenced body (RFB) be able to take decisions independently of group entities; that transactions with group entities be on arm’s length terms; and that arrangements with other group entities should be managed as with third parties.
“The PRA and the Bank of England have powers to take action if such a transaction were to have a potential impact on the prudential resilience or resolvability of the RFB. The FCA can also take enforcement action for breaches of its rules or for these types of market abuse, which includes the imposition of substantial financial penalties.”
So, there may well be further action coming from the FCA at some point regarding what has happened with SEB, relating particularly to the role of CBD Energy.
The most concrete action has seen a preliminary opinion from the adjudicator at the Financial Ombudsman Service that he does feel that complaints against Independent Portfolio Managers (IPM) do fall within his remit.
IPM claim that this is not so because there is not a client relationship between themselves and SEB investors and that the activity they undertook was not as such regulated in terms of the jurisdiction of the FOS.
IPM have contested the initial findings of the adjudicator at the FOS, who will now be responding over the next few weeks.Beyond the Parliamentary and regulatory framework, the media has remained quiet on the issue. The only recent mention being a reference in a Telegraph piece by Kate Palmer about mini-bonds. The article, which focused on the launch of a new mini-bond, then questioned the security of these instruments, with reference to what had happened with SEB. This irritated SEB investors, as it once again outlined an unhelpful media narrative on this scandal, namely that this was a risky venture, with investors taking a chance that was always likely to come unstuck.
The reality is that this was not a risky venture, just so long as the funds raised go toward the original purpose for which they were intended. The problem all along with SEB is not that the original business proposal was flawed but that the bulk of the funds were removed altogether before they could be used for the proposed purpose – namely putting solar panels on schools. This point seems to be very difficult to get over to some media.
So there is much going on, nothing further though to report on what has been happening regarding the activities of administrators Grant Thornton.
* If you a bondholder you can join the email group to keep up to date with what is going on – details can be obtained from the GT portal, letter to investors, July 2015.