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Stringfellow investors left bewildered

Many had been clients for years.

Some of the clients who invested money with Thomas Stringfellow have told Moneyweb how they would not receive proper documentation relating to their investments or even statements on their portfolios unless they specifically asked for them. However, this didn’t concern them as long as they were receiving the income that Stringfellow had promised.

Stringfellow, a high-profile financial advisor in Johannesburg, handed himself in to the police earlier this month and was charged with fraud in the Specialised Commercial Crime Court. He faces allegations that he may have misappropriated more than R100 million from investors.

Read: Well-known financial advisor Thomas Stringfellow arrested

Stringfellow charged with fraud

Moneyweb has spoken to a number of Stringfellow’s clients, all of whom were promised a return of 14% for placing their money in unregulated products that he was offering. In most cases, these clients had been advised by Stringfellow for many years and their money had previously been held in the regulated unit trusts he managed.

Lorna Jane

However, when Stringfellow, together with his wife Leigh, started the Lorna Jane South Africa business around 2010, he began encouraging clients to move their money into investments funding this operation. They have told Moneyweb that he assured them that Lorna Jane South Africa had outstanding prospects.

It seems, however, that Lorna Jane South Africa has folded. All seven of its stores appear to be closed, and Moneyweb has been unable to contact anyone affiliated with it.

The parent company, which sells women’s activewear and is headquartered in Brisbane, Australia, has explained that Lorna Jane South Africa operated as “a totally separate business”, and was merely a licensee. It too has been trying to get information on what has happened to the South African operation so that it can relay this to customers who have been making enquiries.

Other ventures

It has however come to light that Lorna Jane South Africa was not the only unregulated investment that Stringfellow was promoting. Moneyweb has spoken to a client who was told that his money was also invested in a venture in Liberia and silicon mines in New Zealand.

In all cases, the return offered was 14% per annum.

This client explained to Moneyweb that he did not have any documentation pertaining to these investments, and did not receive regular statements despite having entrusted Stringfellow with millions. He was also given little detail on the underlying investments.

Other clients who invested in Lorna Jane South Africa also explained that they were never shown financial statements for the business. They relied on Stringfellow’s assurances that the operation was doing well.

Some investors did not even have any indication that anything had gone wrong.

They had continued to receive regular income payments until they were alerted by other investors or the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) that there was a problem.

Others, however, had experienced delays in monthly payments, or had struggled to withdraw lump sum amounts for some time. At the time, Stringfellow always had an explanation for the problems. These ranged from his email being hacked by Nigerian fraudsters to problems with systems being automated at the bank.

A question of trust

What all investors had in common, however, is that they trusted Stringfellow’s advice. Given his position as a licensed financial advisor and the award-winning performance of one of the unit trusts he managed, they also did so with good reason.

Some had either been clients of his for decades, or had family members who had been. Over that time, Stringfellow had successfully looked after and grown their money.

For unsophisticated investors, there was therefore good reason to continue to believe that he was looking after their interests. All of them spoke of how confident and convincing Stringfellow had been.

“You always see it this kind of thing in the papers and think why didn’t these people notice what was happening,” one of them told Moneyweb. “As my mom has said a number of times: he was the last person she thought would have done this.”

The FSCA has confirmed that it is working with the police on the matter. Any investors who have not yet done so, should contact the regulator on info@fsca.co.za.

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As the saying goes; a fool and his money …

And there I was, thinking that people with millions to invest, would know a thing or two about money and investing. Clearly I was wrong. They’re as dumb as the poorest member of a pyramid scheme run by a self-made pastor.

How can you not ask the person offering you 14% per annum why he wants to pay you more than what he could pay the bank if he borrowed the money at prime? What does the bank know that you don’t? This is surely the most basic question to ask.

They do not have their investment records and they do not receive statements but they are not concerned by this , they are only concerned and happy that they are receiving their promised profits or interests.
Let see if they are still going to be singing from the same tune when they loose their investment monies!!!

I agree in that these acts seem and are foolish but there is also a psychological basis on which these victims are fooled. Maybe someone else can confirm / add but by giving the clients consistent income this satisfies the need for instant gratification versus delaying it and being more realistic and thereby asking more questions.

This guy has been in the game long enough to know (he does not need to be a psychologist) to understand what his clients want and what they have complained about in the past and to adjust his mode accordingly.

My point is that this is a professional con versus “filter systems” used by Nigerian letter scams in which a obvious filter is used to locate the biggest fool in the room.

and he completed his FAIS exams and the yearly cpd points, etc…and therefor he is a “fit and proper”. All the certificates hanging against the wall to BS clients that he is a top advisor offering returns of 14%….when will people learn.
Please investigate some other companies (listed financial planners) I mentioned before that also offer high returns.

That company logo alone should have been a red flag.

Jip, I’m assuming it’s the bull’s back leg kicking upwards, but it kind of looks like a sexy woman, in a swimsuit sitting on the back of the bull.

#CantBeUnseen

That it is and her name is Lorna Jane.

I have still to meet a “financial planner” who I’d trust. They certainly are not there for your best interest ….. and I include institutional investment houses in this as well.
They’re on the same level as estate agents.

But yes – a fool and his money …..

The reality of the world of money and business…. These things happen, because of greed or creed… This world of financial creed will sink many of us. It matters not how stable an institution is. What matters is the intentions of those who look after our money… the phrase “Moral hazard”comes to mind at times like these.

There is a guy by the name of Pier Louw, working from Porterville, who did the same thing, with the same devastating result. He was a very well known CA in the area for more than 30 years, yet still took his clients to the cleaners. It seems to be a recurring theme where trust is built and then wham! How do you guard against that? In the case of the operator, greed lies at the heart of it, but how can you blame an investor who has trusted the operator for 30 years. I have sympathy with the investors, but surely one should at the very least ask basic questions and demand documentation/proof. If you don’t get answers, then run for the hills. Rather be skeptical and protect your investments than be trusting and loose everything.

Diversification of advisors would have saved them… You dont put it all with the same people… You allocate to various providers… Allan Gray goes bust and you have everything with them, you done for, you are small fry and are last in line for any recoupment if at all… Look at what happened to BBY in Australia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBY_Ltd), these things happen regularly….

Diversify people its the most basic principle there is…

You make your own money, now why would you give your money to someone else to look after, its beyond any form of reason. Cut out these thieving FA’s and buy the MSCI World ETF. There another article on this site, where someone is asking “Do I still pay my RA advisor’s fees if he’s no longer practicing?” ARE YOU SERIAAAAAAS? These FA’s are just praying on the financially uneducated.

This story is no different to the one spun by Weise and Jooste whom institutions and professional investors trusted too! The bottom line is, why trust anyone with your money when you are taking the risk?

Mmm!… Stringfellow, i.e. a fellow that strings you along…the hint was in the name all along…add to that the YoY steady interest yield and inconsistent financial statements…should we even be calling these guys “investors”?

Hans Klopper continues to deny he that he is the BRP for Orthotouch any longer ……. What about Derek Cohen. Are there any legalcourt records out there that state that either of these men are no longer legally responsible for there roles in Orthotouch as BRP and Receiver?????

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