Carbon Neutral Investments is a UK-based company that, until recently, offered two services. First, it worked with companies to sell them carbon offsets to make them “carbon neutral”. Second it provided clearing and settlement services for companies selling voluntary carbon credits.
When REDD-Monitor asked Paul Seakens, the director of Carbon Neutral Investments, some questions about the company, his answers shed little light on the company’s operations. “Please refer to our website,” he said, when I asked him to describe what his company did.
This week, Carbon Neutral Investments seems to have stopped doing business. The company’s website now displays only one page, directing you either to Gemmax Solutions, for “information regarding the Carbon Clearing platform and the Clearing service”, or to CNI (UK), for “information regarding the CNI UK offsetting business”.
My most recent visit to Carbon Neutral Investment’s website was on 22 April 2013. The website’s “List of Trading Members” gave a long list of companies that “CNI provides clearing and settlement services for”. You can see a copy of the list, as it was two days ago, here.
One of the companies on the list is Anglo-Capital Partners. Tony Hetherington, a journalist at the Daily Mail, visited Anglo-Capital’s registered office earlier this year, and found a five bedroom house, with a swimming pool, but no office. The house was for sale. Hetherington’s emails to the company bounced, the fax number didn’t work and telephone calls went unanswered. The company was required, by law, to file ownership details with Companies House in November 2012. It failed to do so. Nevertheless, on 22 April 2013, the company was still listed as “live” on Carbon Neutral Investment’s “List of Trading Members”.
“Anglo takes its responsibilities seriously in respect of treating customers clearly and fairly”, Paul Seakens, the director of Carbon Neutral Investments, told Hetherington. The fact that on its website Ango-Capital describes carbon credits as “a phenomenal alternative investment opportunity”, suggests otherwise.
Anglo-Capital was far from the only dodgy looking company on Carbon Neutral Investment’s list. MH Carbon was also on there, for example.
Carbon Neutral Investments has now transferred its “List of Trading Members” to Gemmax Solutions. The list is currently available as a list of “Clients” on Gemmax Solutions’ website. Anglo-Capital Partners is listed as “suspended”. MH Carbon is still “live”.
Gemmax Solutions’ website gives its office address as 3/4 Great Malborough Street, London. The building has a Starbucks Coffee on the ground floor, and more than 200 companies sharing the rest of the building (pictured left, from google maps). Clearly at least some of these companies have virtual offices.
But are there links between Gemmax Solutions and Carbon Neutral Investments? It seems there are. Gemmax Soluntion’s website was registered on 22 March 2013 by Simon Minton, who is director of a website design company called Minton Kendereski. Another of Minton’s companies, Minton & Co., designed Carbon Neutral Investment’s website. Minton & Co shares the same office address as Carbon Neutral Investments (1-6 Yarmouth Place, London). It also shares the same secretary, Vaeron Limited. Paul Seakens is secretary of Vaeron Limited.
UPDATE – 25 April 2013: Simon Minton of Minton Kendereski got in touch today to make the following clarification:
Minton & Company (which bears my own name and of which I am particularly proud) is/was a web development firm up until the formation of Minton Kendereski in September of last year when I merged my practice with that of Michal Kendereski (our full details are on the Minton Kendereski site). We are based in a serviced office in Mayfair, which is also used by Carbon Neutral Investments and at least 30 other firms. We have built sites for a number of clients in the office building, as you might expect given that they are potential clients on our doorstep.
We also operate for large international companies who would be considered household names. We pride ourselves on the quality of our bespoke work and whilst I am unsure why you have felt the need to include our details in your article, you are perfectly welcome to.
We have no association beyond a client/supplier relationship with CNI – Paul Seakens’ position as secretary of Minton and Company Limited is such because this was my first company and I quite literally had absolutely no idea how to set it up and go about the administrative side! His appointment was terminated on 14/03/2013 in favour of moving everything to the accountants of Minton Kendereski Limited.
There are two companies registered in the UK with the words Gemmax Solutions in their names: Gemmax Solutions Ltd. and Gemmax Solutions Nominees Ltd. Gemmax Solutions was established on 20 May 2010 and its director is Gary Harrowell. The company was dormant, but on 11 April 2013, the company changed its name from Gemmax Investments to Gemmax Solutions. The second company, Gemmax Solutions Nominees was established a few days ago, on 9 April 2013. Both companies are registered at 3/4 Great Marlborough Street.
And what about CNI (UK)? Is this company linked to Carbon Neutral Investments? The logos are the same. The websites are very similar. But they are two separately registered companies. CNI (UK) was established as Alfred Henry Shelco 2 Limited on 29 January 2013. Two days later, the company’s name was changed to CNI (UK). The company’s director is Edward Jonathan Carlton, who is also director of three other companies: Vaeron Finance, Seasaw, and Yarmouth Place. All three companies share the same office address as Carbon Neutral Investments (1-6 Yarmouth Place, London). Paul Seakens is also a director of Vaeron Finance and Yarmouth Place.
The Financial Conduct Authority has issued a warning about Carbon Neutral Investments, posted in full below. (FCA took over from the Financial Services Authority in April 2013, as the UK’s financial regulatory body.) Perhaps the FCA now needs to put out another warning to cover some of these other companies.
We are concerned about investments involving Carbon Neutral Investments. Find out more and how to protect yourself from unauthorised firms.
Several unauthorised firms promoting and selling carbon credits are telling investors that Carbon Neutral Investments Limited (CNI), a firm authorised by us, will handle the money in their investment.
We believe this is done to suggest investors will be protected as though they are dealing with an authorised firm. But this is not correct.
Investing in carbon credits
We continue to receive many reports from people who have been approached by firms promoting and selling carbon credits in the UK.
These reports usually include the investor stating that they have lost money on the investment by not being able to sell, or at least get a competitive rate, when trading the carbon credits.
Find out more about carbon credits and what to consider before investing in them.
Protection when investing in carbon credits
Many of the firms involved in promoting and selling carbon credits are not authorised by us. If you buy an investment product from an unauthorised firm – even if an authorised firm like CNI (FRN 403428) handles the money in the investment – you will not have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) or Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) if things go wrong.
As we do not regulate carbon credits as an investment product in the same way as shares or units, you also will not have access to the FOS or FSCS where the firm involved is authorised by us. This includes where you cannot sell or trade carbon credits.
If you are concerned about an investment in carbon credits you should contact our Consumer Helpline.
You can also take our 10 steps to protect yourself and check our list of firms and individuals to avoid.