Tribunal Orders Stockbroker to Pay Investor N3m Damages
By Dipo Olowookere
Meristem Securities Limited has been directed by the Investments and Securities Tribunal (IST) in Abuja to pay the sum of N3 million as damages to an investor, Mr Steven Guar.
The fine was the stockbroker’s misconduct, which forced the capital market investor to incur some losses and hardship.
In his ruling, Mr Jude Ike Udunni, who presided over the tribunal, held that evidence showed that Meristem Securities Limited failed to discharge the duty of care required of it to the investor who is its client.
He further ordered the company to take immediate steps to ensure that all shares, dividends, and bonuses accrued and still outstanding to the applicant be credited to his CSCS account.
Mr Guar had filed a suit against Meristem Securities Limited and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
He claimed that the share certificates he deposited with the company for verification and dematerialisation in 2008 was lost by Meristem Securities Limited, but was only informed about the loss in 2014.
According to him, he read about the loss in 2014 from the company’s reply to a regulatory query from SEC, where they claimed his share certificates were lost in transit between their Kaduna and Lagos offices.
The applicant also complained that Meristem Securities Limited failed to account for the whereabouts of another 50,000 units of Access Bank Plc shares he bought through it in an Initial Public Offer (IPO) in 2004.
According to the particulars of the case, Mr Guar sometime in 2004 bought 50,000 units of Access Bank Plc shares through Meristem Securities Limited and gave his office address as Jos, Plateau State.
From that time, he did not hear anything again about the shares allocation/allotment nor was a share certificate delivered to him until 2012 when he accidentally received a dividend bonus certificate issued on the shares in 2008.
He, thereafter, made inquiries and got to know that his address on the shares subscription form was changed to another address in Ikoyi, Lagos.
The address in Lagos belonging to the company was where his dividends, bonuses and letters were channelled. He demanded from the company the original certificate of the shares as well as the other bonuses and dividends that had accrued which they failed to oblige.
Also, in 2008, the applicant in another separate transaction travelled to the Kaduna Office branch of the company and handed them various share certificates of different companies in which he held shares to take to the Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS) in Lagos to verify, dematerialise and credit into his account only for the company to fail to account for the whereabouts of those other share certificates.
Mr Guar, after failing to resolve the issues even with the intervention of SEC, approached the Tribunal seeking eight declarative remedies including an order that he was entitled to know the whereabouts of his share certificates; that the certificates be returned to him and that the withholding of dividends accrued from his 50,000 units of shares till date was illegal.
He also sought an order to compel SEC to direct Meristem Securities to regularise documentation of his shares with his Registrar and consolidate his accrued dividends, bonuses and interests, among others.
But in its defence, Meristem Securities Limited informed the Tribunal that the share certificates were lost in transit between their Kaduna and Lagos offices.
On the entry of a wrong address in his offer application form and incorrect routing of his letters to their Lagos office which kept him in the shadows, the company denied responsibility arguing that Registrars were responsible for custody of addresses and dispatch of mails.
Meristem also argued that though the certificates were lost, the client’s shares were still intact. However, the client proved before the Tribunal how the value of the shares eroded drastically during the market tumble that took place.