CAPE TOWN – Whatever the wider fallout may be from the allegations that Cobus Kellerman is involved in a massive Ponzi scheme, it has already hit the South African financial services industry. On Thursday morning JSE-listed Anchor Group announced that it had terminated its agreement to purchase Contego Holdings.
Kellermann is a shareholder in Contego and was the founder of Clarus Capital. Last year Contego took over the running of Clarus-branded funds.
Just last week, on 18 March, Anchor announced in its annual results statement that it had purchased 100% of Contego. However, that deal has now been called off, with Anchor releasing a SENS statement that reads:
“Despite the Board’s confidence in Contego Asset Management and the funds they manage, the board will continue to take a firm stance where contracting parties fail to make material disclosures in acquisitions of this nature.”
On Thursday evening the Financial Services Board (FSB) released a statement in which it stated that it records showed that Cobus Kellermann is a director of Contego Asset Management’s parent company Contego Holdings. However, JC Louw, the CEO of Asset Management at Contego Asset Management told Moneyweb that the FSB’s information is out of date since directorships are only reported at certain intervals.
“Cobus Kellermann resigned as Director of Contego Holdings, effective 31 December 2014,” he said. “I confirm again, Mr Kellermann was never a director, an employee, a key individual, a representative, or involved with the management of funds of Contego Asset Management.”
Anchor also announced that it would be resigning as the fund managers of three of the Clarus-branded unit trusts that it manages on an outsourced basis. It also once again moved to distance itself from any association with Kellermann.
“We wish to re-iterate that aside from providing asset management services to Clarus Asset Management (they were a client of Anchor Capital), Anchor Group (or any staff member of Anchor Group) has never been in business with Mr Cobus Kellerman,” the announcement read. “The Anchor Group board places great emphasis on reputation and the trust associated with our brand and will always maintain strict integrity ahead of potential shorter term financial gains.”
CEO of Anchor, Peter Armitage, clarified his company’s position by explaining its relationship with Clarus:
“We ran three unit trust funds on behalf of Clarus – two equity funds and one listed property fund,” he said. “Nor was this unusual. Coronation, and some other prominent investment managers also ran funds on behalf of Clarus. But with the allegations surrounding Kellermann’s link to Belvedere in Mauritius, we have resigned as the fund manager of those funds, and have duly notified the FSB.”
Armitage stressed that although they believed the purchase would be financially beneficial, they had to protect the integrity of the organisation.
“We signed a purchase agreement to acquire a suite of unit trusts in which Contego had the management contract to run on behalf of Metropolitan,” he said. “Cobus was one of the shareholders of Contego. In light of the accusations, and with respect to our policy of completely dissociating ourselves with anything untoward, we have cancelled the sale in light of facts that have come to light. We still think it would have been a great deal for us, but we are putting our reputation ahead of everything else.”
Armitage also noted that he was ‘absolutely horrified’ to see the name of Anchor Capital on a web page for a company associated with Kellermann called Trinity Scheme. A fund by the name of the Anchor Global Diversified Fund is listed as one of four funds under the heading ‘Our Funds’. Underneath the fund name there is a link to Anchor’s website.
“About two years ago we wanted to launch a global fund,” Armitage explained. “We spoke to Kellermann at the time about it, along with other interested parties. But we didn’t proceed with him, rather electing to go with Sanlam in Ireland. These funds launched literally a month ago. They are named the Anchor Global Equity Fund and Anchor Global Absolute Return Fund.
“The Anchor Global Diversified Fund does not exist,” he said. “We have certainly never managed it or taken a fee or anything. Either Kellermann created it and just put it on the website. Or else he has opened the fund and put money into that fraudulently. We are aggressively trying to establish using all legal means possible whether there is money in that fund.”
Armitage also stressed that Anchor had never put any client money into Belvedere or any structure than was run by Kellermann or Cosgrove. Like just about everyone else in the South African financial services industry, he said that until this week he did not even know that Belvedere existed.
Once the news broke, he did however make contact with Kellermann to ask him about the allegations.
“I called Kellermann on Saturday morning to ask him what was going on,” Armitage said. “It was a brief call – he essentially denied all the accusations.”
Late on Thursday the FSB released a statement in which it noted that it was co-operating with the Mauritian Financial Services Commission and the Guernsey Financial Commission into the affairs of Kellermann and his associates. It said that it had also engaged with Kellermann himself and would take any regulatory action it deemed necessary at the conclusion of the investigations.