Company selling 'almost anything you can think of' to vulnerable investors wound up by the High Court.
A London-based broker targeting often vulnerable investors, mis-selling them various ‘alternative investment’ products has been ordered into liquidation following a petition presented by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to wind up the company on grounds of public interest.
Cutler and Ross Limited, which was formerly known and traded as, Sussex Associates Limited, sold investments in a range products including wine, fancy coloured diamonds and working interests in oil wells. Although denied by the company, the investigation also showed that it sold investments in storage units and art.
The company sold alternative investments valued in excess of £3 million from which it received commissions of at least £1,384,662.
The Company issued a brochure to investors promoting coloured diamonds stating that it was:
A boutique brokerage that sources rare natural coloured diamonds for buyers seeking to diversify their portfolio.
Sussex Associates will help you choose the most appropriate diamonds for your portfolio. This involves assisting in the colour selection, size and other characteristics of the diamond in order to maximise your return. Using our global network we will then source the best quality, conflict free diamonds.
In fact, the company acted a broker for a single supplier. Total sales of diamonds by Sussex Associates amounted to £288,673 from which Sussex Associates received £203,816 in commission.
The company was warned by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) that in their opinion Sussex Associates had acted in breach of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA), which sets out rules on who can engage in regulated activities and the promotion of investment activity.
Despite giving the FCA assurances, on 23 July 2014, that it would ensure that it would not knowingly act in contravention of FSMA the company continued to promote investments in breach of the regulations selling a further £728,000 of investments in oil alone.
The FCA issued a warning to the public about Sussex Associates Limited. The company subsequently changed its name, first to Compare Markets Limited and then to Cutler & Ross Limited. The company’s sole recorded officer, John Rimmer, admitted to the investigators from Company Investigations that the name change was as a result of the FCA’s warning.
Mr Rimmer informed the investigation that the company was simply an introducer. This argument did not hold water with the FCA, or the Court and was not supported by the evidence uncovered during the enquiries carried out by Company Investigations.
Evidence uncovered in the enquiry showed that, whilst by no means all, a good number of Sussex Associates clients were elderly and/or vulnerable individuals, who had often been targeted by other unscrupulous companies. Sadly, one investor was sold investments whilst suffering from dementia.
Welcoming the Court’s winding up decision David Hill, a Chief Investigator said:
The company persuaded members of the public to part with substantial sums of money by promising extremely high rates of return. In reality the investments were promoted only because they paid high rates of commission to the Company and were in fact not much more than worthless.
We work closely with a number of partners to prevent unscrupulous companies fleecing the vulnerable and the Insolvency Service will continue to investigate and bring to a halt the activities of companies harming or about to harm the public by operating in this way.
Notes to editors:
Cutler and Ross Limited (company registration number 08603626) was incorporated on 10 July 2013 under the name Sussex Associates Limited. On 28 May 2015 the Company changed its name to Compare Markets Limited and subsequently on 6 August 2015 the name was changed to Cutler and Ross Limited.
The petition was issued following confidential enquiries carried out by the Insolvency Service, under section 447 of the Companies Act 1985, as amended.
The registered offices of the company have been:
- 90 Brixton Street, London SW2 1QN - from incorporation to 10 February 2015
- 25 Nutford Place, London W1H 5YQ - from 10 February 2015 to 21 May 2015
- 10 Aldersgate Street, London EC1A 4HJ 21 - from 21 May 2015 to present date
The sole recorded director of the company throughout is shown to have been John Charles Rimmer. No company secretary is shown to have been appointed.
Mr Rimmer is shown to be the sole shareholder of the company with one hundred £1 ordinary shares.
Abbreviated unaudited accounts for the year ending 31 July 2015 report total assets of £49,564 (previous year £14,076); creditors of £13,000 (previous year £2,795) and a loss for the year of £25,283 (previous year profit £11,181).
The petition to wind up Cutler and Ross Limited in the public interest was presented in the High Court on 23 August 2016.
The public interest grounds for winding up the company were breach of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000; lack of transparency/cooperation; failure to deliver up/maintain adequate books and records; failure to provide agreed goods/services; and making misleading/unjustified statements to investors.
In ordering the company into liquidation on grounds of public interest on 19 October 2016 Mr Deputy Registrar Garwood said:
… it is very clear on the evidence that the company has engaged in activities in respect of which it has utilised false, misleading and unjust statements to persuade, often vulnerable, people to part with their money. It was not just a single activity, but a range of activities, almost anything you can think of.
It is noticeable that the company does not appear [at the hearing]. It is difficult to imagine what factor it [the company] could put forward to oppose the winding up. I suggest there is nothing and that is why they are not here.
Company Investigations, part of the Insolvency Service, uses powers under the Companies Act 1985 to conduct confidential fact-finding investigations into the activities of live limited companies in the UK on behalf of the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
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The Insolvency Service, an executive agency sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), administers the insolvency regime, and aims to deliver and promote a range of investigation and enforcement activities both civil and criminal in nature, to support fair and open markets. We do this by effectively enforcing the statutory company and insolvency regimes, maintaining public confidence in those regimes and reducing the harm caused to victims of fraudulent activity and to the business community, including dealing with the disqualification of directors in corporate failures.
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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: email@example.com.
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Published: 1 December 2016
From: The Insolvency Service