Mirror Trading International (MTI) has been around for a little over a year but the first time I heard about them was during the market collapse earlier this year when people started asking me about their promise of 10% returns per month. That in itself is a red flag: 10% a month doubles your money every seven months which is pretty much impossible and is certainly not sustainable without significant risk being taken.
The idea behind MTI is that a member deposits a minimum of $100 in Bitcoin and then MTI claims to trade FX using a programmed bot that generates the impressive returns.
A look at its website raised several red flags, most notable, that it was not registered with the Financial Services Conduct Authority (FSCA). Its reason for this (communicated indirectly via online videos now deleted) was that as members deposited Bitcoin and this cryptocurrency is not regulated, MTI did not need to be registered with the FSCA. That statement is false. It is essentially a deposit-taking institution and trades on behalf of members – that most definitely requires a licence from the FSCA.
Further, the company seems to operate as a pyramid scheme, whereby current members introduce new members and then earn a 10% commission. MTI defends this as a marketing expense, but it is also the cornerstone of any pyramid scheme.
Back in May I requested more information from MTI and things got weird real quick. Four different people popped up in my emails and Twitter DMs claiming to represent MTI yet none actually answered any of my concerns about the lack of FSCA registration, audited results or the risks involved. Not surprisingly I did get a lot of hate-filled and threatening messages and was also sent a number of links to videos that claimed to verify the promised returns.
But at no stage was I given any verifiable information proving the claims around the returns, the actual trading or the safety of member monies.
Then in early July the Texas State Securities Board issued an emergency cease and desist order against MTI and its founder and CEO Johann Steynberg.
A month later in early August, FXChoice, the broker MTI claimed to be using, issued a statement stating that it had frozen the MTI account and more damningly: “Before the account was blocked, they (MTI) executed just a few trading operations, which were performed manually, large and incurred substantial losses.”
The Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), responsible for financial regulation in Québec, Canada, has on its website included MTI in a ‘Warning list of websites and companies that solicit investors illegally’.
Then earlier this week the FSCA issued a statement on MTI in which it states: “The FSCA is of the view that the current business model of Mirror Trading International requires it to be in possession of a financial service provider licence.” And it concludes with, “We recommend that clients request refunds into their own accounts as soon as possible.”
In response to all of the above, MTI issued a lengthy statement to clients that raised even more red flags. Concerning FXChoice freezing its account, it claims: “No member funds are held with this broker and the funds frozen pertain only to MTI’s private fund” – which contradicts its earlier statements about this being the FX broker it was using for its automated bot trading.
MTI states it has now moved to a new unregulated broker because Bitcoin is unregulated and MTI claims this is in members’ best interests. Further, it’s not stating who this new broker is in order to “protect our relationship with the broker”.
It also acknowledges meeting with the FSCA and claims it tried to work with the regulator but that the “FSCA does not have any intention to assist MTI”. MTI does not make any reference to whether or not it will be acquiring the required licence from the regulator.
Numerous attempts to get comment from MTI and to speak to its CEO, Johann Steynberg, over the last few months, and more recently this last week, have meet with no success.
The above evidence from three authorities, across three different countries, leaves me with no doubt that MTI is not a legitimate operation and ultimately it will end in tears.
Luister na Ryk van Niekerk se onderhoud met ondersoekhoof van die FSCA Gerhard van Deventer en MTI se woord-voerder Cheri Marks