TM Harris Associates is another UK-based company that cold calls people hoping to persuade them into handing over their money as an “investment” in voluntary carbon credits. The company seems to have many of the hallmarks of a boiler room scam.
In addition to carbon credits, TM Harris Associates also sells rare earth metals and land and properties. In January 2013, Action Fraud issued a warning about companies selling rare earth metals. The company website provides no details about its land and properties deals.
A “meet the team” page of the company website lists the Board of Directors: Clive Harris. The website explains that “Clive Harris is one of 3 founding members of T M Harris Associates.” In fact, the company has only one director, registered with Companies House: Clive Mongelard. Clive Harris Mongelard registered TM Harris Associates in February 2010. Until March 2012, the company was called Maybach Investments.
The company website boasts that Harris Mongelard has been a “financial adviser and expert in financial products” since the year 2000 and that “he was one of the City’s most respected Stock Brokers”. Between March 2003 and April 2009, Clive Harris Mongelard worked for the following firms:
- Mansion House Securities Ltd (Director)
- Beaufort Securities Ltd
- Access Equity Management Ltd
- Arjent Ltd
- Falcon Securities (UK) Ltd
- Montague Pitman Stockbrokers Ltd
- Capital Index Ltd
How Clive Harris Mongelard became a “respected” stock broker from this record is open to question. In 2008, the Financial Securities Authority fined Mansion House Securities £122,500 for pressuring customers into sales and misleading customers. In 2010, the FSA would have fined Falcon Securities £240,000 for the way its subsidiary Montague Pitman used “inappropriate sales tactics to pressurise its clients into agreeing to purchase shares”, but the company went into administration and avoided the fine.
TM Harris has a website dedicated to selling carbon offsets. The website includes the usual misleading and undated quotations:
Barclays: “Carbon will be the world’s biggest commodity market and it could be the world’s biggest market overall.”
UBS: “Carbon prices may triple by 2013.”
Merrill Lynch: “Carbon could become one of the fastest growing markets ever.”
Fortune Magazine: “JP Morgan isn’t alone, all the big global banks including Barclays, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch are hurrying into carbon trading.”
For an explanation of why these quotations are misleading (apart from the obvious, that it is already 2013, and carbon prices have not tripled), see this post about City Asset Partnership, another company that sold carbon credits as investments. Since that post was written, City Asset Partnership’s website has disappeared.
TM Harris is registered in Thaxted, a small village in Essex, about 40 kilometres from Cambridge in the UK. It looks like a nice place, but it’s perhaps not where we might expect “one of the City’s most respected Stock Brokers” to register his company. The company’s brochure gives an address in London: 137-149 Goswell Road, London, EC1V 7ET. The company’s website gives a different address: Pennine House, 28 Leman Road, London, E1 8ER.
TM Harris provides no information about the projects that generate its carbon credits. Instead, on the company’s website is a note explaining that,
By simply filling in the form to open a free trading account you can have access to details about our current projects or speak to one of our consultants now on +44 207 253 6319.
TM Harris offers potential investors the option of investing in either voluntary carbon credits (VERs) or compliance carbon credits (CERs). On its website, the company offers brochures for both options. Oddly enough the brochure for CERs belongs to another company, called Carbon Advice Group.
The TM Harris brochure on VERs states that,
[N]ow is the ideal time to become involved in a market that is well established and has already seen massive growth but with the ever-increasing global emission reduction activity seems set to move to new heights.
Of course, when it gets to the small print in the Risk Warning, TM Harris points out that,
The purpose of this report is solely to provide introductory information and some background to the specific topic. It is not intended for use directly or indirectly in market forecasting or for making decisions.
In order to get the company brochure I had to fill out a form with my name, email address and telephone number on the company’s website. Once I had done so, I was informed that I had now signed up to TM Harris Associates. The next day, I received an email thanking me “for signing up to T M Harris Associates” and asking me to open up a trading account with TM Harris. No doubt, had I given an actual phone number I would have received a phone call by now encouraging me to invest in near worthless carbon credits at a vastly marked up price.