He recently set up a website, MartinVenier.org, through which he is promoting himself and the financial services of an alleged group of scientific, mathematical, and economic experts.
The alleged group calls itself “Portfolio Resilience Investor Analytical Services (PRIAS)”. A search for the group on the internet retrieves no results, except for Venier’s website.
One of the services offered by PRIAS is described as “Curation Filtering”. A search for “curation filtering” suggests that the phrase was invented by Venier and his colleagues. Its meaning is unclear.
Note that the words “curation” and “filtering” are synonyms, so joining them together is redundant—a bit like combining the words “bamboozle” and “swindling”.
Listed under “Curation Filtering” is a service called the “Self-Managed Hedge Fund (SMHF)”.
Unlike “Curation Filtering”, a search for “Self-Managed Hedge Fund” does retrieve results.
One of those results is the “First Meetup for Cybertraders Anonymous“, which took place in Sydney Australia on July 25, 2013 and was organized by a guy named Kingsley Jones.
At the meeting, Jones said he would be giving a presentation on the Self-Managed Hedge Fund, and he’d reveal how to become George Soros “in your bedroom”.
Six months ago, Jones announced on Twitter that the SMHF had been launched:
On his blog, Martin Venier claims he is in Australia (and very busy with clients), so it’s possible that he is collaborating with Jones, helping to promote the SMHF, aiming to get obscenely rich from his bedroom.
[Note: About six months ago, Venier appeared to be a member of an Australian bitcoin group. This info was obtained from a link which has since been deleted. Several bitcoin scams have recently been in the news.]
The Big Investment Lie
Michael Edesess, author of The Big Investment Lie: What Your Financial Adviser Doesn’t Want You to Know, is scathingly critical of financial advisers and fund managers. He argues that most of them collect unjustifiably high fees for doing little more than ripping off investors.
Given that Edesess’ criticisms are aimed precisely at people like Venier and the others who were involved with the LM scam, it is surprising that Venier published an article written by Edesess on his website:
One of Edesess’ quotes perfectly describe the LM debacle:
Another of Edesess’ quotes aptly describe the mumbo jumbo (e.g., “curation filtering”) which Venier’s PRIAS group uses to describe its services:
At first, I assumed that Venier had published Edesess’ article without Edesess’ permission, so I contacted Edesess to warn him.
Stunningly, Edesess confirmed that he had known Venier for years and had given him permission to publish the article.
Even more surprisingly, Edesess told me that he did not believe that Venier was knowingly involved in any fraudulent activity when he worked at LM. He said the LM situation was “complicated”, and he did not believe that Venier should be held responsible.
However, after receiving my email, Edesess contacted Venier and asked him to remove the article from his website, which Venier has now done.
Edesess told me he “did not have time to deal with the matter”, presumably meaning that he did not want to be perceived as connected in any way with LM. He says he is currently working on a start-up in the United States.
Is Venier Innocent or Was Edesess Duped?
Readers of Martyn Terpilowski’s LM Emails will recall that, in late 2011, as Terpilowski was desperately trying to get his clients’ money out of the MPF, Venier made statements which suggested that the fund was operating like a Ponzi scheme. Specifically, Venier suggested that old investors were being paid back with new investors’ money, rather than with profits earned from investments.
When Terpilowski pointed this out to Venier, and when he pointed out that it was unethical (if not illegal) to continue promoting a fund in which existing investors were locked in against their will, Venier just dodged the issues, never giving a satisfactory response.
This was nearly one and half years before LM went up in smoke.
Martin Venier’s Cognitive Dissonance
In a couple of sections on his website, Venier talks about the psychological phenomena of “cognitive dissonance” and “confirmation bias”. Although he does not explicitly say it, it is easy to imagine that Venier is describing his own experiences at LM, particularly his experiences interacting with Martyn Terpilowski:
Venier no doubt had “uncomfortable feelings” when hearing Terpilowski call the MPF a Ponzi scheme and a fraud. This may have led Venier to seek information which confirmed the views (the LM sales pitch) which he was paid to believe and disseminate.
Venier claims that he created his new website “to prevent us from becoming victims of groupthink”. He seems to believe that he is uniquely qualified to perform this service, perhaps due to his firsthand experience.
Venier Continues to Criticize Everyone But Himself
After LM collapsed, Venier and Terpilowski had a very heated email exchange, in which Venier insulted Terpilowski, accused him of throwing his clients under the bus in order to cash in on LM’s excessive commissions (when the opposite was true), and he threatened to call the police. Venier never apologized for being wrong or for his role in helping LM defraud thousands of investors (whether wittingly or unwittingly).
Now, on his new website, Venier continues to construe himself as being totally innocent, while simultaneously casting blame on everyone else. He even describes himself as an “advocate for investors”.
Venier specifically blames fund managers (presumably Peter Drake), financial advisers, and investors for having “unrealistic expectations” that the MPF could “generate liquidity and capital stability simultaneously.” He says it was “a task all properly trained financial market practitioners understand is not achievable.”
Presumably, Venier views himself as “a properly trained financial market practitioner” who never had “unrealistic expectations” for the MPF. If that is true, it raises the question: Why didn’t he blow the whistle on Peter Drake and the so-called financial advisers, rather than continue facilitating the fraudulent marketing of the LM MPF to inexperienced retail investors?
Venier maintains he was innocent, but his commentary suggests that he was complicit.
Venier heaps blame on financial advisers for not disclosing the excessive commissions which LM paid, yet Venier is silent on whether LM did anything wrong by paying excessive commissions to incentive financial advisers to distribute a fund which Venier admits was doomed to fail.
Venier additionally criticizes financial advisers for being ignorant, lacking “real market experience”, having “poor formal training”, and promoting the MPF using false or misleading information. (Note that Venier admits to training these advisers, so maybe he should take some responsibility.)
Venier also blames some investors for “lacking savings” (i.e., investing aggressively in MPF’s promise of high and safe returns in order to make up for their lack of savings), which implies that Venier knew the MPF was being illegally/improperly sold to retail investors (i.e., those investors with less than $1 million USD in savings and no professional investing experience).
Below are two screenshots of Venier’s self-written biography on his website. The first screenshot is the original version. The second screenshot shows a paragraph about LM which Venier recently revised. Notice that Venier never actually says he worked for “LM”. Instead, he says he worked for “a fund manager with Australian property assets”.
Revised Section on LM
Venier recently removed the content from the “Services” section of his website. It once openly promoted services including: Portfolio Resilience Investor Analytical Services, Curation Filtering, and the Self-Managed Hedge Fund.
The website now says it is not promoting anything:
It’s unclear why Venier made the changes, but perhaps he was afraid of being reported to the SFC for violating Section 103 of Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Ordinance (issuing unauthorized investment advertisements to the Hong Kong public), which is a criminal offense.
A screenshot of all his original service offerings is here:
Interestingly, the “Contact” page of Venier’s website shows that the PRIAS group is currently doing business in a region which appears to be Hong Kong (see the purple dots):
A search on the SFC’s website indicates that the PRIAS group is not licensed to do business in Hong Kong. Carrying on a business in an SFC-regulated activity without an SFC license is a criminal offense (see SFO Section 114).