Press release

12 year disqualification for director whose company sold Rare Earth Elements as an investment

A director of Global Metal Exchange Ltd disqualified for 12 years for selling Rare Earth Elements as an investment and failing to maintain proper records.

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Samuel Peter Hawkins, a director of Global Metal Exchange Ltd (GME), has given an undertaking to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills to be disqualified as a director for 12 years. The disqualification regime exists to protect the public. Mr Hawkins’s disqualification from 22 March 2016 means that he cannot promote, manage, or be a director of a limited company until 2028.

This disqualification follows investigation by the Official Receiver at Public Interest Unit, a specialist team of the Insolvency Service. The Official Receiver’s involvement commenced with the winding up of the company in the public interest, after the affairs of the company were investigated by Company Investigations.

The investigation found the price of the REEs had been inflated by several hundred percent so that the only entities to make money from the venture was GME and its supplier of REEs. It was uncovered that GME telephoned individuals and sold them REEs on the basis that they were suitable as an investment. There was no viable exit strategy for GME’s customers at the time and, even if there was, the price GME charged for the REEs meant that the REEs could not be sold without financial loss. As a result customers are owed at least £33,414.61.

Commenting on this case Paul Titherington, Official Receiver in the Public Interest Unit, said:

The Insolvency Service will not hesitate to use its enforcement powers to investigate and disqualify directors whose companies defraud the public.

The amount owed to customers may in fact be higher than that revealed by our investigations as the company failed to keep adequate records and there may therefore be additional customers I am presently unaware of.

Notes to Editors

Global Metal Exchange Ltd (Company Registration Number 08162310) was incorporated on 31 July 2012. The petition to wind up the company was presented by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovations and Skills in the public interest following an investigation conducted by Company Investigations (Live), another specialist unit within the Insolvency Service which uses powers under the Companies Act 1985 (as amended) to conduct confidential enquiries into the activities of live limited companies in the UK on behalf of the Secretary of State for Business, Innovations & Skills (BIS). The winding up order against Global Metal Exchange Ltd was made on 12 March 2014.

On 22 February 2016, Mr Hawkins signed a disqualification undertaking for a period of 12 years. The period of disqualification will commence on 22 March 2016.

A disqualification order has the effect that without specific permission of a court, a person with a disqualification cannot:

  • act as a director of a company

  • take part, directly or indirectly, in the promotion, formation or management of a company or limited liability partnership

  • be a receiver of a company’s property

In addition that person cannot act as an insolvency practitioner and there are many other restrictions are placed on disqualified directors by other regulations.

Disqualification undertakings are the administrative equivalent of a disqualification order but do not involve court proceedings. Further information on director disqualifications and restrictions can be found here.

The Insolvency Service administers the insolvency regime, investigating all compulsory liquidations and individual insolvencies (bankruptcies) through the Official Receiver to establish why they became insolvent. It may also use powers under the Companies Act 1985 to conduct confidential fact-finding investigations into the activities of live limited companies in the UK. In addition, the agency authorises and regulates the insolvency profession, deals with disqualification of directors in corporate failures, assesses and pays statutory entitlement to redundancy payments when an employer cannot or will not pay employees, provides banking and investment services for bankruptcy and liquidation estate funds and advises ministers and other government departments on insolvency law and practice.

Further information about the work of the Insolvency Service, and how to complain about financial misconduct, is available.

All public enquiries concerning the affairs of the company should be made to:

The Official Receiver, Public Interest Unit (South), The Insolvency Service, 2nd Floor, 4 Abbey Orchard Street, London WC1B 3SS.

Tel: 020 7637 6404 Email: piu.or@insolvency.gsi.gov.uk

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Published 21 April 2016