IMANI’s authorization is the apprenticeship of the accessible on activity issues in adjustment to access bigger policymaking.
Consequently, IMANI tends to focus on Government agencies and added accessible bodies; institutions; and individuals with the accommodation to make, actuate or assassinate policy.
On those occasions breadth IMANI has advised the assignment of clandestine entities and individuals, it has usually been because those entities or individuals are acting as agents (for instance, as contractors or consultants) of accessible agencies, or are in some added way essentially impacting on accessible abundance and policy.
IMANI has no business, in accustomed circumstances, acid the business models and practices of a aggregation afterwards government affairs like Menzgold, alike if affiliates of IMANI acquire over the aftermost year aggregate their angle in their abandoned capacity.
But these are not accustomed times. Ghana is experiencing a absolute crisis of aplomb in the cyberbanking sector, and Government accomplishments abet questions about the conduct of able cyberbanking actors in the clandestine sector.
We are accountable by developments this anniversary – the accusation adjoin the SEC and the Bank of Ghana, the abeyance of “extra value” payments on accomplished “investments” placed with Menzgold, and letters suggesting that Menzgold has no trading accommodation in the United Kingdom – to activity this assay to advice appearance media coverage, authoritative action, and accessible aldermanic probes into the advancing clamminess crisis aggressive to accompany bottomward one-third of the cyberbanking system.
IMANI’s official annotation are consistently based on aboriginal research, which, in the case of Menzgold, we had not committed the time and assets to undertake until now. Finally, we have.
We will abandoned abide agilely on the affair of whether Menzgold is in a adapted band of business. Whilst a administrative authority, such as a Court, shall attending at law to actuate whether the declared attributes of Menzgold’s business avalanche aural one of the ample bound of adapted activities articular in Ghana’s capital cyberbanking law (Act 930) and balance law (Act 929), the simple actuality is that there are globally recognised definitions of words like “securities”, “derivatives”, “bonds”, “stocks”, and “securities” etc.
In a abstruse breadth like the cyberbanking markets, it would be actually absurd for every law to seek to additionally affectation as a abstruse chiral and bookish textbook.
Not surprisingly, admitting application the appellation 158 times, the drafters of the UK’s Cyberbanking Services & Markets Act of 2000 did not accommodate an all-embracing ogue of, for instance, “securities” in its estimation section. Ample attempt have, however, been founded to tie a abundant abounding altered annual basal variations of the aforementioned affair calm by the simple activity of agreement them beneath one regulator.
The all-embracing and across-the-board access in all complete jurisdictions calmly abduction not aloof acceptable balance such as shares, bonds, warrants, and debentures, “investment contracts”, broadly defined, but additionally “investment advisory”, “brokerage services”, and “derivatives”.
This is the case in Ghana too, breadth the balance law covers every believable third-party advance arrangement structure. Ample categories of institutions and affiliated individuals accountable to adjustment include: “investment advisory” and “broker-dealers”. Furthermore, the law affirms that “any added institution” in the “securities industry” is accountable to ascendancy and supervision. The ogue accustomed in the Ghanaian SEC law for “securities” is actually across-the-board and expansive, not exhaustive; it lists a cardinal of archetypal instruments, such as derivatives, and advance activities, afterwards closure.
The US Supreme Cloister has additionally done the accepted law apple a abundant annual with a brilliant, common-sensical, position on the accountable by establishing the Howey aphorism in the case of SEC v W.J. Howey Co as far aback as 1946, aback it captivated that an “investment contract” artlessly refers to “a contract, transaction, or arrangement whereby a actuality invests his money in a accepted activity and is led to apprehend profits abandoned from the efforts of the apostle or a third party.” This has over the years become a alarm of ablaze in abounding aphotic waters.
The catechism of whether Menzgold is accountable to SEC regulation, in the advancing controversy, is to be bent by whether their band of business as they acquire declared it, as is assigned in their acknowledged commitments (such as contracts), and as they acquire categorical it to be in their lawsuits, authorize to be advised as accord in the balance and/or derivatives conception and trade.
There are a accomplished ambit of activities declared in the Ghanaian SEC enabling law, abounding of which are relevant, but “securities” and “derivatives” are so able-bodied accepted worldwide, and so broadly regulated, that allusive acquaintance and the accepted acreage of cyberbanking markets accommodate us with all we charge to apperceive to be assured about the accommodation of Menzgold’s activities for regulation.
Once we acquire apparent that Menzgold is actually accommodating in the balance trade, the aing footfall would be to appraise the risks of its business model, in adjustment to barometer the coercion of the charge for regulation. If it is auspiciously argued that they are affianced in a adapted business with a high-risk profile, the systemic attributes of that accident can be adjourned and recommendations offered in the achievement of absolute added contagion. Our final achievement for this exercise is that it will activity some insights about how to amusement new business models that may crave regulation, whilst alienated the allurement of arty big-ticket regulations on every new idea, alike if the systemic risks they affectation are minimal.
The afterward activities of Menzgold in Ghana acquire never been in doubt. They acquire been afresh and accepted abounding times in abounding contexts, academic and informal, by assorted Menzgold representatives. The accommodation are still to be begin in Menzgold’s brochures and websites.
1. Affairs gold confined to the accessible through an affiliate, Brew Marketing, in denominations of 5 grams and above. These confined may be awash in partially aesthetic anatomy (called “Gold Dore” by Menzgold).
2. Affairs commemorative gold altar to the accepted public.
3. Accepting these gold confined for accumulator and “trading”.
4. Paying “extra value” that accrues from the trading activity to the barter who own the gold bars, in the anatomy of a capped allotment of the bulk of the gold bar every ages over a anchored arrangement term, usually three months, six months or 12 months.
Some of our colleagues at IMANI acquire gone to abundant lengths to appearance that the arrangement abstracts accoutrement Menzgold’s “Gold Vault Market” product, in affiliation with which the aloft activities are conducted, acknowledge a abominable abridgement of of acknowledged and cyberbanking knowledge. They acquire acicular out that the blueprint of the gold adumbrated in the Menzgold arrangement are self-contradictory; the “aurum utallium” appellation is not a able description acclimated in accepted affairs in the industry; and that Menzgold’s convenance of affairs the gold to the chump abandoned to about-face about in the arrangement and accomplish acquiescence with the blueprint the accountability of the aforementioned chump is both antic and inept, decidedly aback Menzgold refuses to renew its authorization with the country’s abandoned authorised assayer of gold, PMMC, which abandoned can accredit that the gold actuality exchanged is actually gold. Our colleagues acquire argued that a business cannot innovate on top of article that they about grasp.
We shall not go over these claims afresh here. Instead, we shall focus on evaluating the risks in the business archetypal and accomplish some recommendations.
Menzgold’s activities authorize a arrangement of a aggregation alignment balance and trading them with absolute basal cyberbanking knowledge. That Menzgold does not or cannot acquire that they are actually trading in balance is in actuality the scariest thing. Because it agency that they do not acquire abundantly accomplished cadre to appoint in this accomplished band of business. Revelations that their operations in added countries are not additionally trading outposts accumulate the affair severalfold. Actuality is why.
Menzgold is complex in the balance business in Ghana by the simple actuality that they are demography a admired asset of a chump and able them allotment over a audible aeon in the future. Menzgold NEEDS to be complex in securities, alike if alfresco Ghana, in adjustment to accomplish the connected beck of allotment on their aureate assets “under management” actuality in Ghana.
Even if we discount, and we shouldn’t, the actuality that their Ghanaian operations absorb securities, we cannot do that for the added leg of their operations, which allegedly happens overseas, because they charge consistently RE-INVEST the deposited gold in adjustment to accomplish allotment from which to pay their customers. They charge to acquire cyberbanking professionals with categorical abilities in adjustment to be able to access these allotment from the market.
To date, not a distinct Menzgold able with a cyberbanking advance planning accomplishments has been begin afterwards a abundant ysis of their abettor records, application Linkedin and lath on the ground. This, accompanying with the actuality that they do not acquire or acquire that they are in any of the balance and advance categories listed in Act 929, through which concise cyberbanking allotment can be generated raises austere apropos about the basal able accommodation of the company.
Intriguingly, it has now additionally appear to ablaze that Menzgold is not accountant by any of the cyberbanking bazaar regulators in those countries breadth they acquire set up across branches. So how actually is Menzgold “trading” the gold it claims to be accession for Ghanaians overseas? Best likely, through agents.
Considering the accent of the London bazaar in commodities-based trading, we absitively to investigate if we could yze any accepted cyberbanking apparatus in London that an abettor could be trading on annual of Menzgold for the absurd yields that would accredit them to accomplish the payments they acquire been authoritative in Ghana. We could not, and we shall busy added in due course.
But brainstorm our ailment when, instead, we learnt of assertive absolute acreage plays in South London involving a assertive Adewale Adebajo, a absolute acreage professional, whose offices had been farm to Menzgold aback they aboriginal set up their British branch. The botheration is that Adewale Adebajo’s operations acquire been barred by the UK cyberbanking regulator, and his activities in the Nigerian absolute acreage bazaar become a austere antecedent of concern. Why is it that Menzgold consistently abort to appoint cyberbanking and advance professionals of the adapted calibre?
If Menzgold had any austere accounts or advance able on the team, he or she would acquire explained to them that the oldest anatomy of “securities” were actually gold-backed notes, whereby investors placed their gold with goldsmiths for administration and in apprehension of bulk appreciation. The consecutive adeptness to barter these notes, which led to gold-backed currency, is not a all-important agency in assessing whether or not a gold depositary is a security. Worldwide, they are recognised to be.
Take India, for instance, breadth “Gold Deposit Schemes” acquire connected been run by jewellers and others in the gold trade. The chump calmly over some gold to the jeweller or added depositary managers, and they get a anchored or amphibian acknowledgment at defined intervals, usually a month. In India, the balance regulator, SEBI, regulates all these offerings as “collective advance schemes”, as actually they should (Click actuality for added https://www.sebi.gov.in/legal/circulars/oct-2013/gold-exchange-traded-fund-scheme-gold-etfs-and-gold-deposit-scheme-gds-of-banks_25561.html).
Menzgold has fabricated a lot out of the actuality that its affairs with individuals in its Gold Deposit Arrangement (GDS), which it calls Gold Vault Market, cannot be advised a article accreditation or depositary in the balance faculty because the affairs are not “transferable”.
This is addition assurance of austere cyberbanking illiteracy. It is b adeptness that accord in abounding aggregate advance schemes, whether in the anatomy of affairs into a barrier fund, advance in a alternate armamentarium or assemblage trust, or acceptable a bound accomplice in a clandestine disinterestedness fund, about involves the accident of restrictions on transferability, and in abounding cases transferability afterwards permission is barred.
Not every aegis has a aqueous accessory market. This is such b being that Menzgold would acquire accepted had it actually active accounts professionals in administration or on its board. That it does not acquire this is attestation to austere incapacity.
It is accurate that genitalia of Menzgold’s awful breathless affairs acquire been drafted to advance that the depositor is alone “trading” the gold on Menzgold’s “platform”, suggesting conceivably that Menzgold is alone a medium. This would actually acquire aloft absorbing atypical challenges for Ghana’s balance law aback regulations administering Ghana’s “over the counter” cyberbanking exchanges are about beneath inclusive, and there are no universally recognised appearance of cyberbanking article exchanges.
At any rate, the accident contour of such an operation would acquire been far lower and absolute altered in appearance aback investors/customers would acquire been apparent anon to bazaar risk, afterwards any adumbrated acknowledgment through Menzgold’s skill.
Unfortunately, Menzgold is not actually accouterment anyone with a belvedere to anon barter gold. It is not alike an exchange-traded fund, whereby it picks investments but passes on both accident and acknowledgment to investors proportionately. Menzgold claims that it takes the gold and barter it on its own terms.
The investors/customers acquire no acumen and are issued no letters at all about what Menzgold uses the money for, or which trades it has committed to. Its advance activity is a complete atramentous box, and it has never issued an anniversary report, abundant beneath audited accounts, to any of its barter to assure them that it is actually afterward some defined trading strategy. It artlessly takes tokens, declared to be gold confined awash by its affiliate, goes abroad and allotment every ages to pay a acknowledgment that all this while has been fixed. Such practices bulk to austere mis-disclosure.
The Gold Vault Bazaar can acutely not be beheld as an absolute trading platform. Nor can it be beheld as a t trading belvedere accountable to any regulations fabricated to fulfil the demands of area 214 of the SEC law.
For the abstention of doubt: Menzgold’s “Gold Vault Market” is a Armamentarium that takes gold, converts the accomplished or allotment thereof into banknote somehow that it shares with customers, and afresh allotment the gold at the end of the relationship.
To the admeasurement that Menzgold advertises to the accessible and promises a acknowledgment DEPENDENT ON MENZGOLD’S SKILL, CREDIT, AND GOODWILL, it is in the balance business. In fact, this is the best archetypal blazon of operation in any business that pools investments from the accepted accessible for the purpose of reinvestment.
To the admeasurement that Menzgold selects the assets or strategies for the absolute trading of the “gold deposit”, and not the customer/”trader”, it is also, at altered stages of anniversary accepted “Gold Vault” transaction, an advance advisor, armamentarium manager, and broker-dealer, all aural the acceptation of the Act.
A accurate abstraction of the “collective advance scheme” accent of area 216 (the estimation clause) of the SEC law provides added acumen by advertisement a actual set of advance advising activities about altogether identical to the Menzgold model, as they themselves call it. The ogue of derivatives (“any cyberbanking instrument” whose “value and characteristics” are acquired from an “underlying asset”) acerb complements this text.
Were Menzgold to be advised an able entity, its operation could calmly become a carry for the bed-making of actionable funds aback no know-your-customer or benign affairs restrictions would administer to it, as actually they haven’t for abounding years now. Anyone adulatory to acquit funds would artlessly go to Brew Business with accoutrements of cash, acquirement declared gold and duke them over to Menzgold for “trading” and afresh absolute for adjustment in an annual of their choosing. Which civilised administration can abide this?
That Menzgold has been alms a anchored acknowledgment ability advance that it is ambidextrous with certain instruments. Plain boilerplate bonds and added fixed-income instruments activity anchored allotment too. But they usually activity lower ante actually for that reason.
Presently, Menzgold offers on boilerplate about SEVEN TIMES added than criterion anchored assets advance articles on the market. This is acutely abnormal in finance. Typically, the college the acknowledgment or crop the college the volatility. In fact, in all the hundreds of years aback accounts became a academic discipline, a high-yield apparatus with aught animation has not yet been conceived.
But let us yze actually why, adverse to appearances, Menzgold’s archetypal is alike riskier than other, usually volatile, high-yield instruments.
To do that we charge acknowledgment to the business model. Menzgold accepts deposits of gold starting at 5 grams per assemblage (about 1000 GHS). Several investors/depositors/customers that our lath acquire announced to accepted to “depositing” the gold handed them by the Menzgold associate in quantities abstinent in “pounds”, which is to say in multiples of about 90,000 GHS. Our colleagues appraisal a absolute gold bulk of about $300 actor may be at stake, admitting we acquire additionally apparent estimates as low as bisected of that.
The archetypal account of Menzgold in its brochures and on its website is that it is leveraging on amount movements in gold, in accurate on a bet that gold prices acceleration over time. This account is of advance absolute implausible, aback gold prices move up and down, rather than aloof up, and yet Menzgold has connected to activity a fixed, positive, bulk for four or added years now.
Furthermore, gold-linked funds all over the apple are in huge difficulties as a aftereffect of the bearish affect in the gold bazaar adapted now (https://www.etf.com/sections/features-and-news/gold-etf-demand-falling?nopaging=1). But the absolute botheration is that Menzgold’s axiological archetypal is fundamentally incoherent, and already afresh suggests the austere abridgement of accounts and advance professionals in its rank.
Through its model, Menzgold is consistently advertisement itself to the amount of gold. By accepting deposits consistently in gold afterwards any compassionate of what its optimal captivation ability be (it runs an “open scheme”, whereby, clashing best high-yield funds, through connected advertising, it seeks to allure a amaranthine beck of new customers), it agency that its armamentarium is consistently “long” on gold, behindhand of bazaar conditions.
In simple terms, Menzgold does not, clashing the blow of the market, attune its backing of gold based on the bazaar situation. It aloof keeps demography in the gold for “trading”.
Any non-traded fund, as Menzgold’s archetypal is, would adapt the admeasurement of its captivation based on bazaar conditions, which is to say it will recruit associates up to a point, delay for a while to realise a trading strategy, and abandoned afresh expand. Menzgold, on the contrary, is consistently demography in added gold.
But that is not all. The absolute bearings is alike added bizarre. Because it is “borrowing” the gold to “trade”, it is actually additionally consistently “shorting” gold, which agency that the amount of gold charge consistently abatement for it to accomplish faculty to borrow the gold from its customers, barter with it, afresh buy aback the accurate gold for all investors who ambition to retire their principal.
This is in complete bucking of Menzgold’s declared claims of leveraging gold amount increases for its returns. Indeed, if this is what it had been accomplishing the archetypal would accomplish no faculty aback every three months it would charge to buy aback the gold it traded out at a college amount afore abiding aforementioned to the buyer who would appropriately acquire benefitted from both the assets and the amount appreciation. But if so, breadth would Menzgold’s allowance appear from? It takes (in actuality borrows) gold at amount A. Amount of gold goes up to A x. It finds x dollars to accredit it buy the gold aback in three months and afresh acknowledgment A x to the owner. On top of that admitting it charge additionally add y dollars in dividends!
What about the adverse case though? Would that beggarly that in a apple of falling gold prices, Menzgold can anatomy a high-yield apparatus from gold? No.
Even admitting it is accurate that Menzgold’s accepted model, allegedly alien to Menzgold’s owners, is actually activity on a bead in the amount of gold aback it borrows gold from barter and promises to acknowledgment it to them in three months with absorption of up to 30% (i.e. advertise the gold as anon as it comes in, advance the gain elsewhere, accomplish money, buy the aforementioned abundance of gold at a lower amount and afresh acknowledgment the gold with the 30% “extra value” befitting whatever remains), such a activity abandoned works aback the aggregation is additionally ambiguity adjoin any anecdotal acceleration in the amount of gold, an activity that would acquaint a transaction amount and appropriately cede the archetypal absurd accustomed what we apperceive empirically about the amount of gold historically.
But anticipate about it carefully, if Menzgold knows how to cash gold, barter with the gain and accomplish added than 30% in three months afore affairs aback the gold for the depositor, why does it charge gold in this mix in the aboriginal place? It could artlessly borrow at 5% a ages from any cardinal of acquisitive cyberbanking institutions, barter with it, accomplish 30% and accumulate the difference. Why go through the angled aisle of aboriginal soliciting gold from the accepted accessible afore active these able trading strategies application its adorable algorithm, and ache all the inconveniences?
Whatever Menzgold may be accomplishing or thinks it is doing, the accommodation to ascendancy gold, and appropriately be apparent to the airy article market, and yet pay absolute aerial anchored allotment over a concise advance border implies such aerial accident that its adjustment is a amount of burning accessible interest. It charge abide to a acknowledgment regime, aural a complete authoritative regime, that will accredit investors/customers/depositors to accomplish up their own apperception armed with all the facts.
Be that as it may, Act 929 empowers the SEC to resort to cloister to bulldoze a assembly of abstracts aback acknowledgment is not forthcoming. At a minimum, Menzgold needs to acknowledge the accounts and advance professionals it is relying on to accomplish added than 10% a ages in returns; which re-investments it is authoritative aloft cancellation of gold; and its audited cyberbanking statements for examination.
The SEC is the adapted ascendancy with the abilities and accommodation to appraise these annal and disclosures. To the admeasurement that several cyberbanking institutions may be alongside apparent to Menzgold due to the aboveboard letters we acquire apparent of advance companies authoritative absolute placements or lending to Menzgold depositors/customers, this is a amount of systemic accident and the regulators should act with urgency.
What has this adventure anticipation us so far? Several things, and beneath we shall accomplish some recommendations to abstain approaching occurrences.
1. Breadth a atypical business archetypal does not affectation any systemic risks, the SEC has the power, beneath sections 50 to 58 of its enabling law, to admission the promoters self-regulatory cachet in adjustment to advance addition and abstain the airless of creativity, abnormally for startups, aback regulations are about cher and are not consistently the adapted starting point for the adorning of artistic ideas. The catechism appropriately becomes information. The SEC charge acquire its fingers on the beating of the cyberbanking markets and adjoining spaces and industries.
2. The Cyberbanking Intelligence Center’s (FIC’s) authorization and enabling legislation charge to be added and adapted to accommodate “market scanning” activity with a appearance to creating an aboriginal admonishing arrangement for high-risk business models that may crave regulation. It is actually unacceptable that for abounding years Menzgold was aboveboard alignment and business balance in Ghana afterwards the requisite license. This is actually unacceptable, accustomed the admiral accessible in the SEC Act.
3. The added law should accredit the Parliamentary Select Committee amenable for the breadth to conduct account accessible hearings to appraise the FIC’s account reports.
4. In appearance of some of the discoveries advancing to ablaze in the Menzgold matter, it charge become a amount of authoritative activity that all Directors and managers of operators in the balance industries abide connected accounts abilities training.
5. SEC has actually no absolution in the address it has proceeded so far. Refusal to aftermath advice is, beneath area 34 of the SEC law, a amount of bent law acute badge investigations. It cannot abide to adumbrate abaft the absence of advice to booty accurate activity to axis the systemic accident appearing from assorted able advance schemes countrywide. Per sections 37 and 38 of the SEC Law, the agency may appeal cyberbanking advice from the Bank of Ghana in affiliation with any affair whom it believes is accordant to an advancing investigation, and afresh advance to cloister to bulldoze added affirmation alfresco the cyberbanking arrangement in adjustment to trace assets, appraise annal of trades, and access chump lists. This is ytical to alpha putting in abode assorted accident measures to anticipate accumulation defaults should able advance schemes debris to abide to adjustment and accept instead to wind bottomward or abscond.
6. It is time to restore adjustment and aplomb to Ghana’s cyberbanking sector, and we charge all regulators to alpha earning their accumulate or abandon if the assignment is above them.
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