Letter by Adrian Tan
Much has been said and written about “Buyer beware”, investing “with their eyes open” and “I think the prospectus says ‘you could lose all or a substantial part of your investment in the Notes’ in bold print, on page 1 or 2”.
But what if the prospectus did not disclose material facts?
The New Paper’s Doctor Money ( Larry Haverkamp) wrote on 4 November 2008 that
“A feature common to ALL linked notes is that investors never see the charges. They include:
> costs embedded in the initial pricing;
> counter-party returns in the product’s risk/return structure;
> commissions from buying and selling the options, swaps and underlying bonds;
> market-making and surrender fees; and
> annual management fees, including trailer fees kicked back to distributors.
They are deducted directly from the yield. Investors are likely to attribute the low return to market conditions rather than unseen costs.
Most importantly, unit trusts and investment-linked products (ILPs) routinely publish their charges. Linked notes never do.”
Investors in Minibonds and HN5, Jubilee and Pinnacle Notes should be asking lawyers whether the failures to disclose the above amounts to a breach of section 243 (1)(a) of the Securities & Futures Act which reads, “A prospectus for an offer of securities shall contain all the information that investors and their professional advisers would reasonably require to make an informed assessment of the matters specified in subsection (3).
And if they are, what are the remedies and against whom. As Doctor Money wrote, “The question of the day is: ‘Should non-disclosure of embedded charges invalidate linked-note sales contracts and require a refund from issuers and distributors?’”
Breaches of section 243(1)(a) are something MAS is surely investigating because we have been assured, MAS is looking, “thoroughly into every possible breach of regulation, poor internal regulation or sales practices. And it will take action where necessary”.
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