A few months ago, after a particularly dreary day at the office, I met a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. Full of boyish zeal, he told me of an investment scheme he had signed up to.
Curious, I asked him to tell me about it. After a few minutes and with an attention span I never knew I possessed, he outlined the whole package to me.
It was unbelievably good an investment and my mind went blank; high dividends and guaranteed safety of my money, all within a few months.
I saw light at the end of the tunnel, I had discovered my golden goose or so I thought.
Humans have always had a fascination for windfall wealth. Wealth that can be obtained in one fell swoop without or almost without any toil.
In medieval times at the tip of the renaissance, a new science called Alchemy became hugely popular.
Alchemists claimed they could turn lead and other common metals into gold through a highly mystical process.
Needless to say, it took more than two centuries of lost investments and money to accept that alchemy was a pseudo-scientific hoax.
The promise of immediate, untold wealth with little or no labour is a lure that has always found eager victims.
In the 1920s as well, when America was on the ascendancy as a great power and new financial schemes sprouted in legions, a banker named Charles Ponzi introduced a savings scheme that promised more than eight per cent per month. The public signed up in droves.
They imagined a lifetime of luxury and days of untold plenty ahead. The scheme lasted over a year and crashed on itself, losing a lot of people their lifetime savings.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) describes a Ponzi scheme among other things as ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’, offering high returns with little or no risk, offering overly consistent returns, not registered with regulatory agencies and secretive and complex strategies.
In Ghana, such schemes are not new to us; Piram investments, U.S Tilapia and DKM are some examples. Recently, we have been witnesses to the media war between Ghana’s SEC and a gold trading company, Menzgold Ghana.
Without explicitly saying so and pending its investigations into Menzgold, the SEC through subtle and sometimes open means cautioned the public to be wary of the investments made on their behalf by Menzgold.
Menzgold operates on quite a simple premise; purchase gold today and earn dividends on it tomorrow. Through a somewhat simple process, your investments can yield more than a 100 per cent per annum.
After initial public support for Menzgold which was perceived as being witch-hunted by the SEC, most of its customers are now apprehensive of receiving their investments.
The warning from SEC is in good faith because our fledgling financial sector has been swept by a tsunami of bank collapses, mergers and takeovers, resulting in losses and expensive bond issues to salvage them.
This situation has seen public confidence in the financial services sector at its lowest ebb in almost two decades after years of tireless campaign to get more individuals banked.
Any more such incidents of failures by the regulators and other stakeholders will hamper the growth and stability of the sector for a long time; people are going to go back to the days of pillow banks.
As we await the outcome of the impasse between the SEC and Menzgold, individuals who have their monies with Menzgold can only hope that they receive their investments safely and wholly without any delays.