Recently, a company calling itself the OTC Registry has contacted people who bought carbon credits from MH Carbon, offering them access to the company’s registry service. In the three years before it went into liquidation, in May 2013, MH Carbon sold carbon credits to more than 5,000 people, raising a total of £18.7 million. But the carbon credits that MH Carbon sold are worth a tiny fraction of this amount. The victims of the fraud are left with near worthless carbon credits.
Enter the OTC Registry, which, for a fee, provides a “central reference point”, to link buyers with sellers of carbon credits. But note the repeated use of the word “may” on the company’s website:
This may provide those holding Carbon VERs a central reference point that may assist in the future liquidation of their holdings by developing a hub with which to introduce interested buyers to vendors/sellers and those holding VERs.
Registering your carbon credits with OTC Registry costs £199.99 – a 20% discount on the “normal” rate of £249.99.
In a press release put out today, OTC Registry’s “new business executive”, Mathew Downes, says,
“For too long, unregulated investment firms have sold unsuitable investments and held them in out of reach ‘Nominee’ trading accounts. The danger this poses, is as has happened with City brokers recently, if the sales broker goes into receivership; it is next to impossible to verify who the beneficial owners are of the assets.
“Furthermore, if a buyer was ever enticed into acquiring the credits of any particular project that the nominee clients held – how would the two parties be put in touch with one another?”
What neither OTC Registry, nor Mathew Downes, explains, of course, is that the problem is not establishing the ownership of the credits. The problem is that the carbon credits that boiler room companies have sold are near worthless.
According to the company’s website, “The OTC Registry is a trading name of OTC Registrars Limited : Registered with Companies House in England and Wales : Co. Number 08411962.” Which all sounds above board, except that no company called OTC Registrars Limited is registered at Companies House. (A company called OTC Registrars is listed on duedil.com, but the company is dissolved.) The Company Number 08411962 does exist, but the name of the company registered with this number is called Independent Power Limited. The director of this company is Paul Keightley and the company was established in February 2013. (Incidentally, Keightley was also director of another company with the same name that was dissolved in 2002.)
OTC Registry’s website (theotcregistry.com) was registered on 6 June 2013. It was registered anonymously.
The company has another website (otcregistry.info), which was registered on 19 April 2013. It was registered by Anthony Standforth, who gave an address for OTC Registry in Belize City.
Yet another OTC Registry website (otcdealbook.com) was also registered on 6 June 2013. It was registered by Paul Keightley, who gave OTC Registry’s address as Seedbed Business Centre, Shoeburyness, UK. That’s the same address given on the OTC Registry’s website.
So Keightley seems to be using the wrong company registration number on the OTC Registry website. And maybe he’s just not got round to registering OTC Registrars at Companies House. None of which inspires much confidence in OTC Registry.
Seedbed Business Centre is in Southend-on-Sea, a seaside resort at the mouth of the River Thames in Essex. That’s a picture of it on the left, from Google maps. OTC Registry does not give a unit number in its address, and the Seedbed Business Centre offers virtual offices, suggesting that if you visited you would be unlikely to find Paul Keightley or any other OTC Registry employees there.
OTC Registry only set up its website a couple of months ago. It isn’t registered at Companies House. It probably runs out of a virtual office on a small industrial unit in Essex. The company’s website provides no information about who runs the company. In addition to your money, if you were to register, you would provide OTC Registry with your address, phone number, email address and details of how badly you’d been scammed. All of which is no doubt very useful information for boiler room operations looking for “good leads”.
The Financial Conduct Authority has some useful advice for people who have been scammed. Step 1: Stop sending money. This applies to both the boiler room and to the recovery room(s) that will subsequently contact you.