Tribunal awards N3m damages to investor for losses
The Investments and Securities Tribunal (IST), sitting in Abuja, has awarded general damages to the tune of N3million in favour of an investor in the capital market for losses and hardship suffered in the hands of his stockbrokers.
This is contained in a statement yesterday, signed by the Acting Director, Corporate Affairs, IST, Kenneth Ezra.According to the statement, delivering judgment in a case instituted by Maj-General Steven Guar (rtd.) against Meristem Securities Limited, and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), as defendants/respondents, the Tribunal ruled that the preponderance of evidence before it showed that Meristem Securities Limited failed to discharge the duty of care required of it by the investor who is its client.
Guar had sued the company claiming N30million as general damages and N25million as special damages to compensate for the loss of share certificates he deposited with the company for verification and dematerialisation in 2008, but which the company claimed to have lost without informing him until 2014. He said it was only in 2014 that he read about the loss 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 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, Guar sometime in 2004, bought 50,000 units of Access Bank Plc shares through Meristem Securities, 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. However, the company again failed to account for the whereabouts of those other share certificates.
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 the documentation of his shares with his Registrar, and consolidate his accrued dividends, bonuses and interest, among others.
On their part, Meristem Securities told 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 the addresses and dispatch of mails.Meristem also argued that although 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.In reaching its judgment, the Tribunal Presided by Hon. Member Jude Ike Udunni, said it was inclined to award general damages against the 1st Defendant because the Applicant suffered some losses and hardship as a result of the conduct of the company. It 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.Other Members of the Tribunal on the panel are – Abubakar A. Ahmad, Albert L. Otesile, Emeka C. Madubuike, and Kasumi G. Kurfi. However, SEC being the 2nd defendant was not found wanting in its handling of the matter when it was reported to it.
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