in United Arab Emirates

Response from Advanced Global Trading: “We can only hope that you amend the title and the last paragraph of your article”

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Recently, REDD-Monitor wrote about a company called Advanced Global Trading that sells voluntary carbon credits to the public as an investment.

Carbon credits are not a suitable investment. Recently the Insolvency Service carried out an investigation into a company called Hildon Green Energy Markets and subsequently ordered the company into liquidation in the public interest. In his judgement, Mr Registrar Jones described the company’s selling of carbon credits as,

“wholly based on a misrepresentation, much like selling a performance motor vehicle for driving but only providing a shell of a vehicle without an engine.”

But AGT’s carbon credits are miraculously different. The price just keeps going up. A couple of years ago, Charles Stephenson, AGT’s director, said that carbon credits are “a commodity that never goes down”. And in 2012, Franklin Connellan, head of investments at AGT, said,

“Over the last 12 months, carbon has seen a return of over 22%. Over the last 18 months a phenomenal 41%. We can comfortably predict that the price will increase by a further 15 to 20% by the end of the year.”

Yesterday, Ian Hainey, AGT’s Public Relations Director wrote to REDD-Monitor. Unfortunately he provided no information to explain AGT’s ever more valuable carbon credits. He doesn’t object to the article, apart from the headline and the final paragraph:

[W]e don’t generally see any particular problem with the majority of your article except for the title and the last paragraph, both of which direct the reader to a particular conclusion (ie. that AGT is running a Ponzi scheme) which are not in any way supported or substantiated by the factual information about AGT in the article.

The headline is a series of questions: Is AGT a boiler room scam? Or a Ponzi scheme? Or both? These seem to me to be legitimate questions. The final paragraph is a quotation from the US Securities and Exchange Commission giving a definition of a Ponzi scheme. It would be unreasonable to ask whether a company is running a Ponzi scheme without defining what a Ponzi scheme is. REDD-Monitor looks forward to Hainey’s explanation of why the price of AGT’s carbon credits only goes up and never goes down.

Hainey accuses a commenter of leaving “defamatory” comments. However, he provides no explanation of why he considers the comment to be defamatory, apart from pointing out that “Mark Smith” (which is presumably a pseudonym) never worked at AGT.

Hainey’s response is posted here in full:

From: Ian Hainey
Date: 20 May 2013 19:08
Subject: Redd-monitor article on AGT
To: Reddmonitor
 
Dear Mr Lang,
 
I handle PR for Advanced Global Trading (AGT) and I write in connection with your article contained in the below link:
 
http://www.redd-monitor.org/2013/05/09/advanced-global-trading-another-boiler-room-scam-or-a-ponzi-scheme-or-both/
 
Firstly, we are surprised that you have not contacted us in connection with your article. AGT makes itself available to the press on a regular basis to assist with articles related to the carbon market generally and AGT specifically. We invite you to our headquarters so you can see for yourself first hand AGT’s operations and personnel which we are confident will refute your negative claims against AGT and its personnel.
 
For your information, please see the attached document which is essentially a small extract of a broader best practices and self-regulatory framework which AGT has developed with its legal counsel in Dubai and in the United States. In the USA, AGT is represented by the head of carbon markets (based in Chicago) at the leading international law firm of Baker McKenzie. This framework has been presented to various participants in the voluntary carbon market, including The Gold Standard, VCS, Markit and NYSE Blue (APX) in an effort to establish it as the industry standard for the buying and selling of Carbon Credits at the retail level. AGT considers its business model and practices as industry leading and best practices which are highlighted in the framework.
 
We note you are a concerned environmentalist and in this connection below are a few links showing some of the work AGT has done to help the local community, spread the environmental message and encourage companies to offset emissions as part of their CSR programmes:
 
http://www.arabianbusiness.com/how-reduce-your-carbon-footprint-491092.html
http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/industry-insights/the-life/f1-chasing-green-formula-in-dubai
https://www.menafn.com/menafn/1093506842/Dubai-Autism-Centre-on-day-out-Carbon-Credit-brokerage
http://www.uaeinteract.com/docs/Desert_challenge_goes_green/48751.htm
http://www.ameinfo.com/environmental-project-uaes-meet-global-vcs-308874
 
We present the above links to highlight AGT’s efforts, as part of its business model, in developing sustainable and environmentally conscientious practices, especially in markets such as the Middle East and Africa where environmental issues are still relatively unknown and/or practiced. AGT is proud of its efforts in these regards and knows them to also be market leading.
 
Notwithstanding, we don’t generally see any particular problem with the majority of your article except for the title and the last paragraph, both of which direct the reader to a particular conclusion (ie. that AGT is running a Ponzi scheme) which are not in any way supported or substantiated by the factual information about AGT in the article. In effect you are leading your readers to a conclusion which at best is your personal opinion but not one that is substantiated by true facts. Therefore, we can only hope that you amend the title and the last paragraph of your article accordingly.
 
Furthermore, your article and the web link on which it is posted has become a platform for misinformation and defamatory comments by various readers of your article. Such misleading and defamatory comments are unjust and unfairly have an adverse effect on AGT’s clients, employees and other stakeholders. For example, one comment is from a “Mark Smith” who claims used to be employed at AGT but in fact no such person was ever employed by us. We hereby ask you immediately remove such postings. AGT reserves all its rights in this regard.
 
We hope you read this email in the spirit it is written which is an effort by our company to set the record straight about its business practices. We are of the view your article’s title and ending paragraph make incorrect suggestions and inferences to practices that are untoward. We have noted it is your customary practice to publish correspondence you receive from parties you have written about. While we do not have any particular objection to your publication of this correspondence, please ensure to the extent you do publish it, you do so in its entirety so that your readers have the full context.
 
Regards,
 
Ian Hainey

 


UPDATE – 27 May 2013: Document uploaded and link provided to the “attached document” that Hainey mentions in this sentence:

For your information, please see the attached document which is essentially a small extract of a broader best practices and self-regulatory framework which AGT has developed with its legal counsel in Dubai and in the United States.

 

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23 Comments

  1. Do AGT not have a point here?! If Chris Lang is genuinely trying to write an unbiased report why is the title not something like:

    Genuine broker? Another boiler room scam? Or a ponzi scheme?

    Also, what have Hildon Green Energy Markets go to do with AGT? and how does one comment from Mr Registrar Jones judgement have any relevance without any context to how Hildon where actually selling carbon credits??

    Would a professional journalist not contact the company he is writing about with questions prior to writing an article??

  2. @Paul Summers (#1) – Thanks for this. AGT is selling voluntary carbon credits and claiming that they are an investment. Please read this post if you still believe that voluntary carbon credits are a genuine investment:

    Why you should not buy voluntary carbon credits as an investment. A carbon trader explains why

    Hildon Green Energy Markets has nothing to do with AGT except that they were selling the same product – voluntary carbon credits – as an investment.

    Perhaps I should have contacted AGT before I wrote about them. But what difference would it have made? I’ve posted AGT’s response in full. Nowhere in that response is there any explanation of how they manage to keep the price going up or how AGT managed a return of 22% over 12 months. Wouldn’t you agree that one possible explanation for this is that AGT is running a Ponzi scheme?

  3. Chris – are you able to investigate further into AGT?

    And does anyone know what is the actual value of one credit? AGT state a market price of $15.85 but what is this linked to?

    thanks for any info
    J

  4. Jay, can I ask what time zone you are in?

    I am in Johannesburg and you seem to be quite a few hours ahead. By the looks of things you must be posting from the Far East.

    AGT do not have any offices in locations within your time zone. I am curious as to how you came to learn of the company.

    I ask because I suspect many of the responses to posts on this site purporting to be from clients or prospective clients are in fact written by Chris Lang himself who is based in Indonesia.

  5. @Jay (#3) – I’m trying to find out more about AGT. I can’t promise anything though!

    The price of a voluntary carbon credit varies. It depends on the type of project that generates the credits and how long ago the credit was generated. A hydropower project, for example, generates a lot of carbon credits that tend to be cheap, whereas a cookstove project generates few carbon credits and they tend to be more expensive. As far as I’m aware, we don’t know the type of projects that AGT buys its projects from.

    In January 2013, I asked Edward Hanrahan of ClimateCare how much voluntary carbon credits cost. He replied that there is no generic price:

    How much does a carbon credit cost? “There is no such thing as a generic price,” says ClimateCare’s Edward Hanrahan

  6. @Pieter (#4) – I always put my own name to comments. Tempting as it might be, I have never commented under a different name.

  7. Paul Summers -Does Crimewatch contact the criminals family members to alert them that they will be showcasing them in a broadcast?! Does a whistleblower contact the company it belonged too first before it contacts Interpol, Dubai Authorities, Police, DIFC to get their permission? Do you know how ridiculous you sound.

    ‘Dear Charles Stephenson, I’m going to write an investigative piece on your company as it has come to my attention from many of your customers that you are not what you say you are…do you mind if I write something on this?!….Sure Chris sounds like a great idea’

    Based on the ludicrous nature of your comment, one can only assume your working for or affiliated with AGT.

  8. Does this guy or Pieter really think I am going to present my real name or that Chris is behind these comments?! He should refer to the concept of whistle blowing and remaining anonymous as I dont wont those English thugs turning up at my door when they learn that the business is about to crash. I can categorically state and swear on oath I worked for AGT for some time. Ian let me describe the sales office to you to show our readers I worked there. There is a lovely sign next to the kitchen saying ‘No Sales People behind this point’ (Im sure an Idea they took from Boiler Room) which is where the real board of Directors, Chris and Danny sit alongside Liz and Paul Fox. Note: These shareholder directors do not show up on the Leadership Page on the AGT website nor do they offer their glowing backgrounds on LinkedIN…Why I wonder?!

    So a very interesting read! He doesn’t deny they only have a Dubai office and employ around 40 people (not the 150 and 6 offices they suggest). Interesting that nearly all the 40 staff are sales guys from real estate, advertising,insurance backgrounds, none from a CSR, Green company. He doesn’t deny that The Verified Carbon Standard, if you contact them, will tell you that AGT is not registered with the VCS and advise individuals not to invest! Why are AGT not accredited by the International Carbon Reduction Alliance? The body that the VCS strongly advises you go through? Why is it ICRA and it’s accredited members state DO NOT PURCHASE ETP’s as an individual? As Sanjay pointed out in the other article -you want to know the true value of an ETP’s?! -Go purchase them from the registries that hold the certificates. There as cheap as $2 per permit.

    Ian states AGT is ‘represented’ (what does represented mean? They are certainly not ratified, accredited, in partnership or affiliated…their just ‘represented’) with the Chicago Climate Exchange -type in those words in Google and the first article you see is ‘The Great Collapse of Chicago Climate Exchange’ http://21stcenturywire.com/2010/08/27/the-great-collapse-of-the-chicago-climate-exchange/

    Just look how this magician words his paragraphs to trick the readers eyes by using words like ‘this framework has been ‘presented’ to the likes of NYSEBlue, MarkIT etc’. This helps a shameful business such as AGT be associated with reputable brands in the same paragraph to give it gravitas to the reader. I could write a framework on how to make cars and ‘present it’ (i.e send it in the post or email it anonymously and regardless if it’s ever read or acted upon by anyone, I at least ‘presented’ it) to any Car manufacturer and then start telling people I work on behalf of Toyota, Porche etc based on the fact that I presented my framework to them! What a scam! Ian must have joined the same school as J.K. Rowling.

    Readers dont also be fooled with the ‘representation’ with Baker Mckenzie, call their office, Google the two company names, dig around and you will find further hot air and magically phrased paragraphs.

    Readers just look at the links in the previous article and decide for yourself if this is the type of investment you would invest in. Go to AGT’s website and look at ‘Client’ testimonials (actually written by there previous marketing team) and you will see no mentioning of ETPs/Credits increased in price and shown returns.

    Ian -Show your readers which ETP’s or Credits AGT purchase and what price you bought them at and please show these readers why they can’t find any information about the market price of them. Where on earth can you find any accurate, ratified information on the demand and supply of these credits? If there is a Global Demand of 200m ETP’s and a supply of only 120m why is it anyone company or individual right now can go and purchase them on the ETP’s exchanges you so dearly mentioned?! Again he doesn’t deny the graph is completely bogus and drawn up by someone in the back office that doesn’t even give the curtsy of it’s axes and real source of the ‘continual climb in price’

    As to your CRS strategy, of course you want to be seen to endorse green and ethical projects in the region to help with your marketing and credibility to help convince, fool and mislead thousands of new investors to part cash to top up your reserves and pockets. Having worked with that board for some time I can safely say not one of them gives a 2cents about ethical projects, there interested in luxury goods and getting rich.

    I also find it amusing that AGT take an Ethical CSR stance in the GCC and believe they are the thought leaders, trend setters, activists in this field yet they have no presence at the Middle Easts only Annual CSR summit which took place only 3 days ago. http://www.iirme.com/csrsummit If I was CEO of such a think-tank and was the industry leader I sure as hec would have been there, or have a representative either as a speaker or sponsor.

    Interesting to note Ian doesn’t deny that many investors are not being paid out and that the business is under legal and criminal investigation. That might be why there is a huge push to start selling Platinum metals now to cover their backsides from what will be a huge disaster once further investors read these articles and force to liquidate their investment. They even have the nerve to go to existing ETP customers and have them spend further investments with them.

    Ian you handle PR for the business yet on the AGT website your ‘Group PR Director’ (Shareholder or just a smoke and mirrors title) -Most people would be proud of such a title or doing business with a ‘reputable’ company like AGT yet on your linked page in there isnt a single reference to AGT throughout your career or single glowing reference. Strange for someone who is an Online Marketing PR Guru http://www.linkedin.com/in/ianhainey Maybe your too busy getting 23,000 likes on AGT’s FB Page from your Indian fans.

    Just look under the bonnet and you will see the real health of this business. Investors do not be fooled by this bogus business!

  9. @#7 Mark

    Very informative post, thank you, I’m guessing the Chris you are talking about is Middleton?

  10. Do they have DIFC permission? They have office in Emaar Square which is not under DIFC.

  11. Dear All, Dear Mark Smith

    I concur with you! These bunch of […] should face criminal action. Having been conned out of 100,000$ I too am a victim. I was sold the Vers on proof that these Vers were going to give me a 30% return, only after I tried to sell them a few months ago, did I realize that indeed the whole scheme stinks.
    I have had several meetings with their customer Liason who after many attempts and delays on emails ( They are very cagey about putting stuff on emails) was given the run around for 3 months.After visiting their office countless times, I was given excuse after excuse on why I cannot sell, on one occasion was told they cannot explain the increase as that is a company guarded secret! ( I’m sure it is!!) , I was also told by Peter Doyle that selling is not their concern!! I asked them to explain why their platform is showing an increase in price when I cannot get rid of my Vers at my cost price. All their answers were vague, and they attempted to pacify me by meeting their legal rep who just regurgitated the same rubbish. I also told them I would go to the highest office in the UAE to seek action. I understand a few of us have sought costly legal advice, it is time through this platform we came together for a class suit against them, for criminal intent and defrauding unsuspecting people like myself. The UAE prides itself on clean business ethics, […].

    [R-M: This comment has been edited. The deleted parts are indicated: […].]

  12. No offense but did none of you professional investors actually google carbon credits before you purchased tgem… A cool and his money are easily parted… Sorry but u know its true..

  13. Also to point out if someone tells u that something is going to return 30% per year it was only your greed that got u In let alone deeper…

    U should all be ashamed of yourselfs firstly for being greedy secondly for being stupid…

    If u over paid for credits you actually helped some projects but if u you lost your money due to above then u r all as bad as each other and u deserve each other…

    It’s called karma….

  14. Who doesn’t want to make few extra bucks? They maybe stupid but at least they are not fraudsters and heartless.

  15. Hi there,
    We were mild investors that thought, why not put the “oh sh**” money here for a few years, if it gains some interest, great. We were not looking long term and did research the industry. We knew that it was not regulated but as Eco Enthusiasts and people willing to take a more than average risk, we thought we would give it a go.
    WELL, we have now been duped one and they are at duping us again! NOT going to happen. All we need is an extra $15,000 as the platform requires a certain investment. They will then “purchase” our credits off of us at the current “market” rate. Lots of promises and this is what they are doing to “help” us. We were told this money was because we were short what was required for the batch that was available at the moment. Yet this seems to be the same thing they are telling everyone? Where is the TRUST?
    Once we actually looked into it (and yes, even considered) doing this, suddenly selling terms changed, amounts did not add up and attitudes changed big time. We were basically told we can take the deal that they are trying to bully us into or they will can the deal and good luck selling our carbon credits. We took “too” long to make a decision is the reason why the selling terms changed. Are you kidding me???? Who is basically told they are losing a chunk of cash due to one investment not going great and then fork out another chunk to the same people on another unregulated, not much discussed on the global forum and just do it? Of COURSE one has to research. These bullying tactics just ticked me off to no end. I do not feel they are looking after our best interests and feel silly for even putting the money in the first place. Live and learn though.
    @Tom, not greedy at all, did do some research and took a risk. These kind of things happen. Karma? We were doing it because we thought it was an investment that was actually doing some good for the planet. If that’s bad karma for you then I would rethink what you look at as karma.
    As a note, the last month has had more proper feedback than over the last three years. I am so happy we found this forum. It almost sounded like the only option to save what we have invested when it actually looks like we would just be throwing more away.
    @Wael, if you guys are doing a class action suit, please let us know how we get on board.

  16. Guys lets unite together and file legal action in Dubai Courts on Fraud not ‘bankruptcy filing’.

  17. I also have a problem with AGT. I met a group of 6 others in the same boat we are going to raise a court case. Pls do contact me the more we have the better the case I hope. 0553749464. Tim

  18. All, does anyone know of an agent or company that can sell/Use my carbon credits. I do not know what the process is, there must be some companies out there who would be able to use my credits to offset their emissions. Please urgently advise if you can help. 0501896117 UAE

  19. @Tim (#21) – Thanks for this, but I think you need to read Derek’s comment following one of your comments on another post on REDD-Monitor:

    I will not beat around the bush, suffice to say that VERs from an HFC23 project are, in my opinion, worthless. The recent ban of CERs from HFC23 projects has, as you can imagine caused a total collapse in their market price and, given there is no mandatory requirement for VERs, a significant oversupply of VERs related to any demand, I cannot see anyone who would consider purchasing these credits for any economic value.