Forgery Fears at Glencore Unit Spur Nickel Financing Lawsuit

Updated on
  • Natixis sued Marex in London over losses on lending deal
  • Suit relates to collateral stored by Glencore’s Access World

Glencore Plc’s Access World unit was drawn into a London lawsuit over losses from a finance deal that allegedly relied on forged warehouse receipts for nickel, reigniting concerns about fraud in the storage of commodities. 

Natixis SA sued broker Marex Financial Ltd. after losing about $32 million on a sale-and-repurchase agreement. The French bank says receipts for storage of the nickel used as collateral in the lending deal were forged, according to its documents from the case. Marex brokered the deal on behalf of its client, Come Harvest Holdings Ltd.

Marex says the receipts were checked and verified as genuine, and must be treated as such unless proven otherwise, according to its legal papers. The firm argues Access World should be liable for any losses because it authenticated the documents before the transactions, which took place between November 2016 and January 2017. The warehousing unit has been added to the litigation as a third party, along with insurer Zurich Insurance Group AG.

Access World -- a wholly-owned subsidiary of Switzerland-based miner and trader Glencore -- warned customers in January that it had found forged receipts for nickel in its warehouses in Asia circulating in the market. The incident reawakened concerns about the risk of fraud in the commodities-trading industry after a sprawling metal financing scam was uncovered in the Chinese port of Qingdao in 2014.

The Qingdao scandal jolted commodities-trading markets and led to losses at lenders including Citigroup Inc. after metal stored at the port was allegedly pledged multiple times as collateral. It isn’t yet clear how widespread any possible problems at Access World might be, or whether other lawsuits will emerge.

Sale-and-repurchase agreements typically allow a borrower to raise money by agreeing to sell, and then buy back, securities at a later date.

Marex said in a statement that it had met its contractual obligations and would vigorously contest the Natixis claim.

“The $30 million of receipts in Natixis’ claim represents the full extent of Marex’s involvement in the receipts business,” the company said. “If there is any larger fraud, it involves other market participants and not Marex Spectron.”

A spokeswoman for Natixis didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Glencore declined to comment.

Natixis said that Access World had inspected the warehouse receipts in February and confirmed them as forgeries, according to legal papers filed with a London court in May.

Marex “honestly and reasonably concluded that all 16 of the warehouse receipts that it delivered to Natixis were genuine,” the company said in court documents dated June 2017.

The nickel warehouses in the case are in Malaysia and Korea, according to the filings.

Peter Grauer, the chairman of Bloomberg LP, is a senior independent non-executive director at Glencore.

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