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Trouble at Cambist’s parent company

OneLaw lets its entire staff go.

CAPE TOWN – Moneyweb has learned from several independent sources that OneLaw, the company that operates the Cambist Online Platform, retrenched staff on a day’s notice on Monday morning. The sources spoke to Moneyweb on condition of anonymity. Some indicate that OneLaw released its entire staff complement, apparently verbally. A few employees have been offered positions at law firm Flemix & Associates.

Information received by Moneyweb suggests that OneLaw could be facing liquidation and that it no longer has the money to pay salaries.

This comes just over a month after staff at OneLaw were offered voluntary retrenchment packages as part of what COO Arnoud van den Bout called a “rightsizing exercise”. A number of staff members took the option of voluntary separation at the time.

However, Moneyweb has since learnt that some employees did not receive copies of the documents they signed when taking these packages. The human resources department offered to email copies to those who wished to receive them – but this has not happened. A former staff member has told Moneyweb that they have struggled to make contact with the relevant people at OneLaw and therefore have nothing in writing from the company.

There are also allegations that OneLaw is not able to pay severance packages to any of its former staff members, whether they were amongst those who took voluntary separation or those retrenched this week.

Flemix

Flemix & Associates has long-held ties to OneLaw and Cambist. The firm specialises in debt collection and recovery, and is responsible for securing many of the emolument attachment orders (EAOs) that allow debt to be sold on the Cambist platform.

In an emailed response to Moneyweb, the director of Flemix & Associates, Alanza Flemix-Jordaan said: “Our firm made use of Onelaw as one of our service providers. We terminated the service level agreement with OneLaw and will no longer use them as our service provider. Our firm merely decided that it will be more cost effective to handle the functions within the firm itself.”

She added that: “In order to maintain certain skills that we require to continue an effective service to our clients, we have made offers to various key personnel in OneLaw. Flemix & Associates Inc. have not taken over any OneLaw assets.”

Cambist

The Cambist online platform, which promises 19.5% returns on a variety of contracts available for users to buy on the website, began operating in 2012. It is not yet clear how the troubles at OneLaw will affect Cambist’s users.

Cambist’s original business model centred on selling personal debt contracts, secured through EAOs. However Van den Bout told Moneyweb in October that it was becoming more difficult to get the courts to issue these orders and so Cambist was looking at new products.

It launched the sale of cellphone contracts in early 2014 and what it called “sales agreements” later in the year. However, users on the Cambist platform are not told where these contracts originate before they are purchased or the details of the companies behind them.

The retrenchments at OneLaw also follow business rescue proceedings being instigated at microlender Bridge. The two companies were both started by the entrepreneurial Aldum family.

Investors in Bridge, who were offered a 19% return on debentures have since had their returns cut to 6%. They also voted last week to support the business rescue process, which requires creditors and other stakeholders to provide post-commencement finance to recapitalise the business.

Moneyweb did attempt to contact Rueben Aldum at Cambist and Arnoud van den Bout at OneLaw for comment. However, phone calls were not answered and messages were not returned by the time of publishing.

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