Registered users can save articles to their personal articles list. Login here or sign up here

deVere’s backtrack on Kellermann

The firm’s role in the ‘Belvedere’ story comes under scrutiny.

In March 2015, shortly after allegations first surfaced against David Cosgrove, Cobus Kellermann and the ‘Belvedere Group’, international consultancy deVere issued a public statement highlighting the role it had played in the story.

The company noted that it had “helped a US-based investigative financial news service expose what could be one of the world’s biggest-ever frauds in order to protect investors and try to recover assets”. An unnamed deVere spokesperson added that: “We suspect that this case could turn out to be one of the largest financial scams in history”.

The spokesperson went on to claim that deVere and it clients had been “badly let down” by fund managers and administrators, and that “seemingly clear warning signs had been ignored by professional service providers trusted by deVere”.

Changing times

However, last week – four years later – South Africa’s Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) announced that after extensive investigations into companies linked to Kellermann, it could find no breaches of the law. It noted that no international regulator had taken any action against Kellermann either.

Read: SA regulator clears Cobus Kellermann of any wrongdoing

When asked about this by the publication International Adviser, an unnamed deVere spokesperson said:

“It’s interesting the regulator has reached this conclusion regarding South Africa-based funds. We are aware of several international funds where Mr Kellermann has, at least, made unwise investments.”

Clarification

This is a meaningfully different position from the one the company adopted in 2015. Self-evidently, “unwise investments” are not equivalent to “one of the largest financial scams in history”. However, Moneyweb’s queries to deVere asking for clarification on how the company reconciled the two statements were essentially rebuffed.

“Certainly unwise investments were made,” was all that deVere would say in response to questions. The company did not supply details of the funds in which these decisions supposedly took place, or why deVere believed them to be “unwise”.

“A full list can be checked online,” was all that a company spokesperson was prepared to offer.

(Moneyweb’s full request and deVere’s response appear in full at the end of this article.)

Having made this statement, therefore, deVere was either unable or unwilling to substantiate it.

It would also not say whether it still stood by the allegations it made in 2015, given that various bodies have now concluded their scrutiny of Kellermann and Cosgrove.

No action has been taken against Kellermann after investigations by the Guernsey Financial Services Commission, the South African FSCA, or the CFA Institute. Kellermann was never personally under investigation in Mauritius.

Read: The world’s greatest Ponzi scheme that never was

Read: CFA Institute clears Cobus Kellermann

Cosgrove has also not been sanctioned in Guernsey, but was disqualified from holding any position in the financial services sector in Mauritius for five years in 2016. However he is fighting the decision in court, as he was not granted a hearing before the action was taken.

Read: David Cosgrove files for a review of his sanction in Mauritius

Strategic Growth Fund

deVere’s responses to both the regulatory findings and Moneyweb’s questions are significant, because the firm’s specific interest in the ‘Belvedere’ matter has always focused on the Strategic Growth Fund. This fund was suspended in February 2013 due to a lack of liquidity, and it has since become apparent that no money will be recoverable from it.

Read: ‘Belvedere’ update: The Strategic Growth Fund has no recoverable assets

The Strategic Growth Fund was available through the Global Mutual Fund based in Guernsey – a fund platform that was managed by Lancelot Management. The beneficial owners of Lancelot were Kellermann and Cosgrove.

The Strategic Growth Fund portfolio itself was not, however, managed by Lancelot. Its day-to-day portfolio management was handled by a company called United Asset Management.

deVere’s version

In the March 2015 statement, the deVere spokesperson claimed that: “Like many other international brokerages, several years ago deVere was approached by the fund manager of a Belvedere-administered fund to invest in the Strategic Growth Fund.”

This was expanded upon by deVere’s then-divisional manager in Africa, Greg Stockton, in an interview with CNBC Africa. He asserted that Kellermann “approached deVere around 2007 with Belvedere, to talk about Strategic Growth Fund”.

For a number of reasons, however, this may not be true.

Firstly, Belvedere Management was only established at the end of 2008. Moneyweb is in possession of a copy of the company’s first licence issued by the Mauritius Financial Services Commission, as well as a letter from the regulator noting that the licence was issued, both dated November 3, 2008.

Secondly, Belvedere was never the administrator of the Strategic Growth Fund. The fund was administered initially by Bordeaux Services and later by Lumiere Fund Services, but Belvedere never performed any administration services in Guernsey. In fact, it could not have done so as it was never licensed in that jurisdiction.

deVere’s role

Moneyweb’s investigations have also revealed that deVere set up the Strategic Growth Fund itself. A letter written in November 2006 by the managers of the Global Mutual Fund to deVere CEO Nigel Green confirms that deVere had requested two cells in the Global Mutual Fund. These cells, which are portfolios on the platform, are numbers 45 and 46.

In a Global Mutual Fund prospectus dated December 5, 2006, these cell numbers correspond to the Strategic Growth Fund of Funds (GBP) and the Strategic Growth Balanced Fund of Funds (USD).

It has also become clear that all of the investors in the fund were deVere clients.

This was confirmed by deVere itself to Grant Thornton, the auditors appointed in Guernsey as administrators of the Global Mutual Fund. In its report on its investigations, Grant Thornton notes that its joint administrators “met with a representative of deVere, who advised us that all investors in the Strategic Funds are considered to have been introduced by deVere”. This is also supported by a June 2008 fund fact sheet for the Strategic Growth Fund, which indicates that it is “exclusive to deVere & Partners”.

Who knew what, when

United Asset Management, the Switzerland-domiciled company that managed the Strategic Growth Fund portfolio, is also closely linked to Green, deVere’s CEO. The company’s registration certificate lists Green as its sole shareholder.

Although he sold this interest in September 2012, deVere has publicly acknowledged that Green controlled the company. A deVere spokesperson is quoted in a May 2013 International Adviser article saying: “Green’s control of United Asset Management concluded some 12 months ago and his ownership was officially relinquished in September 2012.”

While deVere has denied that Green himself had any input on investment decisions, it is apparent that deVere was at all times fully aware of how the portfolio was being managed.

Moneyweb is in possession of a series of emails sent from the fund administrator, reporting on the Strategic Growth Fund’s daily dealings and included in the recipient list on all of these mails is Beverley Yeomans, who is currently a director at deVere, and has worked for the company for more than 20 years. If Kellermann did make any “unwise investments” while he was managing this fund, therefore, deVere was fully aware of them at the time.

Moneyweb put all of this to deVere prior to publication of this article, but the company declined to respond to any of the specific points raised.

Moneyweb’s request to deVere following its statement to International Adviser:

I hope you can assist me to clarify a few things.

I refer to the comment by a deVere spokesperson in this International Adviser article: https://international-adviser.com/belvedere-boss-cleared-by-south-africa-regulator/

Please can you clarify:

1. Is this an acknowledgement that the claims deVere made in its press release of 25 March 2015 were wrong? In that release, deVere states: “We suspect that this case could turn out to be one of the largest financial scams in history”.

It would appear to be self-evident that “one of the largest financial scams in history” and a few “unwise investments” are not the same thing. Please could you clarify how deVere reconciles those two statements.

2. Why does deVere refer to the FSCA’s decision as “interesting”?

3. Both the Guernsey FSC and the South African FSCA have now concluded their investigations into ‘Belvedere’ without taking any action against Cobus Kellermann or David Cosgrove. The action taken against Cosgrove in Mauritius is being challenged in court. Kellermann faced no sanction in Mauritius. Kellermann was investigated by the CFA Institute, which found no evidence against him. In light of this, does deVere stand by the allegations it made in the 25 March press release? If so, on what basis, given that years of investigation by multiple bodies have found no wrongdoing on Kellermann’s part specifically, and the justification for Cosgrove’s sanction in Mauritius has never been tested? (Also consider that certain statements in that press release are demonstrably false, as Moneyweb has previously reported.)

4. Please could you provide detail of the “several international funds” where deVere claims Kellermann made these “unwise investments”, and on what basis deVere believes such investments to be “unwise”.

Thanks,

Patrick

deVere’s response:

Hi Patrick

1) certainly unwise investments were made

2) as stated

3) this is incorrect

4) a full list can be checked online

Many thanks

Get access to Moneyweb's financial intelligence and support quality journalism for only
R63/month or R630/year.
Sign up here, cancel at any time.

AUTHOR PROFILE

COMMENTS   11

To comment, you must be registered and logged in.

LOGIN HERE

Don't have an account?
Sign up for FREE

“Unwise investment decisions” – big deal. In hindsight, I have made many “unwise investment decisions” in my life and just one was not to buy Capitec at R5. Fortunately, I also made some good ones. These Devere guys should be sued for the damage they did to an innocent man.

Agree – easy to slate a competitor and the greedy media would do the rest.

Eating humble pie (not my expertise to comment on who is right or wrong) is not that easy.

The short response to your questions show DeVere not comfortable

Also damage done to investors and the fact that they still doing damage to investors under a different banner.

Patrick, great article.

Are in contact with any of the investors who actually lost money in the Strategic Growth Fund, after moving their QROPS pensions into it? Worthwhile seeing the disclosures which were provided and the record of advice. Doubt the UAM and deVere ownership were disclosed, nor the upfront commission (kickbacks) provided to the salesman who placed clients money in the Strategic Growth Fund.

What do you expect from a company whose CEO, when giving evidence under oath in a SA Court of Law, is adjudged to give “evidence of a poor nature”, and then also contradicts his “poor” evidence when under cross-examination.

Read into that what you will.

The damage and fall-out from the deVere / Strategic Growth Fund saga is still being felt here in SA, and many of the senior protagonists continue to operate in the SA financial services industry.

A quick check on the FSCA website shows deVere Acuma (FSP 23719) to currently have 1 KI and 12 Reps, which is a much lower salesforce headcount than in 2010-2014.

After Craig Featherby left deVere in 2014 to start Carrick, its “interesting” to note that the subsequent heads of deVere’s Africa Division have left the company AND the country after only lasting a couple of years in the job: Greg Stockton (who, I’m led to believe, only lasted a couple of days at Warwick Wealth before joining Carrick), and Gavin Smith who left the company a few months ago. Its also telling that a couple of KI’s have recently left deVere as well.

It appears the chickens are coming home to roost. Eventually.

The FSCA sits with the details of each and every “authorised representative” and “key individual” of Carrick, deVere & all other “clones”. Perhaps they could start there…?

As long as you deny, deny, deny it’s pretty much impossible for a regulatory body or State to impose any significant sanction on you.

Typically once an organisation – service provider, bank or regulator – gets a good hearty sniff your dealings are up to no good they simply close down your enterprise and walk away. They’re quite sufficient just washing their hands of you.

Mauritius was the only jurisdiction to have sanctioned Cosgrove in his personal capacity and for their efforts they have to waste
more resources getting dragged through court.

The CFA institute “clearing” of Kellermann was more to the tune of “look this guy hasn’t been a charter holder for a while so we’re not even going to stick our necks in this thing.”

I think it’s these lacklustre fireworks that are convincing so many people Cosgrove and Kellermann are innocent.

Belvedere was a one-stop shop partner for fraud. Kijani, CWM, SGF. So many of its funds invested into the same bizarre listed and
unlisted monkey companies. Kijani was a ponzi! Kellermann offloads the entire market capitalisation of BK One in one days worth of block trades between two funds he controls a day before it becomes public the shares are worthless. I’m also not sure what Kellermann’s obsession with DeVere is. It’s like the pot calling the kettle black.

No serious industry player will ever work with these two again.

Trust me, it’s a good thing.

Finally! Someone who knows and speaks the truth. Biggest mistake FSCA made was treating Belvedere and deVere as opposing parties from start to finish, so one had to be wrong and the other one right. They were in bed together for years and both are guilty of plenty of wrongdoing – while they were collaborating and after they fell out.

This entire “outcome” is based on “selective facts”, not all the facts.

de Vere, Carrick, Warrick, Cosgrove, Kellerman, Hogg – you go down that route and you only have yourself to blame

buyer beware

What is the connection with Carrick Wealth and De Vere..just a factual non sensational response would be appreciated

Load All 11 Comments
End of comments.

LATEST CURRENCIES  

USD / ZAR
GBP / ZAR
EUR / ZAR

Podcasts

NEWSLETTERS WEB APP SHOP PORTFOLIO TOOL TRENDING CPD HUB

Follow us:

Search Articles:Advanced Search
Click a Company: