One of the banes of one’s life as an expat is the frequent calls from often very persistent “Financial Advisers” who claim to be able to offer all sorts of ways of enhancing one’s wealth. Unfortunately, bitter experience has taught me that the only people’s wealth they tend to enhance is their own – and the best example of this for me is the “Meyado Private Wealth Management Group“, a UK-based group who were active in Hong Kong in 2001 to 2003 and succeeded in extracting quite a bit of wealth from me before they were run out of town by the Securities and Futures Commission. It is clear that I was far from alone in this, and there are various sites on the internet where others have expressed their displeasure over the years with Meyado (there were more, but apparently Meyado has resorted to legal action to get some taken down). The latest such attempt to get a critical mass of people together to go after Martin Young (the CEO and owner of Meyado) and his cronies has now appeared at http://www.forespoke.com and I wish it every success.
Even if there is not much hope of getting any money back, at least such sites should help to dissuade other gullible expats from parting with any of their hard-earned wealth to these people in future. I find it quite amazing that they currently have a base in Singapore and appear to be tolerated by the authorities there, despite the fact that they were run out of Hong Kong by the SFC (generally far more tolerant than the Singaporeans). I have seen recently that the UK arm of Meyado is licensed only subject to the constraint that it may not hold client money, which gives some indication of what the UK authorities think about them. Moreover, I noticed that they were recently the subject of a winding up (bankruptcy) petition by the UK Revenue & Customs, presumably for non-payment of taxes due – hardly something that would happen to a reputable company – although the petition was apparently dismissed. And this is despite the fact that Martin Young has bought his way into the “posh” segment of society by sponsoring a fairly major polo competition (a big thing amongst the posh set apparently). It seems that if you have enough money, regardless of how disreputable its source, one can overcome an alleged local secondary school, army other rank, second hand car salesman background.
The various mechanisms that Martin Young has used to extract money from investors have apparently included the Velocity Fund, the Catalyst Fund (both of these before my time so I didn’t get caught), commissions on various less than stellar investment vehicles (e.g Newstar Hedge Fund), and, most egregiously, the whole sorry saga of MITL / Meretec. This did actually appear to be an investment in a genuine business based round a proprietary technology for extracting the zinc from scrap galvanised steel, but somehow the vehicle which owned the technology was sold to an Australian company (CMA Corp) in return for a load of CMA shares which are worth nothing like the investment that gullible people like me put into the company through convertible bonds and later shares.
Of course in the meantime Martin Young extracted huge amounts of money from the company to cover his “expenses” leaving it as an empty shell which went into administration (the halfway house to winding up as bankrupt) in 2008 with liabilities which more or less match the residual value of the CMA shares. Hence there is nothing left for the shareholders. So, in effect, the whole Meretec/MITL history has been an extremely efficient vehicle for transferring the wealth (and we’re talking tens of millions of US dollars here) of gullible investors into the pockets of Martin Young and his cronies. It seems to me that at the very least this man is incompetent to be the director of any company, and quite possibly he is an out and out fraudster. It is good to see that the administrators (SF Plant) do at least have their forensics people looking at the situation, which I might hope will lead to some criminal action against Young, but I suspect this is more hope than expectation, even in the current climate where there is some general support for going after the most blatant of the fraudsters (Madoff, Stamford, etc). Let’s see what happens.
If anyone has any comments to add on this whole sorry episode feel free to do so here. Also if you were one of the people duped then please do contact the group at http://www.forespoke.com to get involved in their action, and update them with any useful information you have beyond the documents which they have already published on their website.
Edit – I notice from the London Gazette that there will be further proceedings on 29th November regarding the liquidation of Meretec. I am in the process of finding out what this is about and will update here accordingly.