Author: Julius Cobbett
Date Published: 31 July 2012
A team of inspectors were at Herman Pretorius’s offices.
JOHANNESBURG – The Financial Services Board (FSB) visited fund manager Herman Pretorius last week Thursday, the day he died. On Tuesday morning, the FSB’s Gerry Anderson confirmed that a “team of FSB inspectors visited” Pretorius’s offices. Anderson is the FSB’s deputy registrar for financial services providers.
Earlier this month, on July 10, Anderson told this reporter that the FSB had engaged with Herman Pretorius with regard to his activities during 2011. Said Anderson: “Such engagement cannot be seen as formal investigation.
However, Anderson said that a case had been opened against Herman Pretorius after he received information fromMoneyweb: “Upon receipt of your recent information, we have opened a case on Herman Pretorius and are looking at the matter.”
The FSB’s visit indicates that Thursday must have been an extremely stressful day for Pretorius. He had scheduled a meeting that evening in Moorreesburg to address clients about the status of their investments. Pretorius also had a meeting that afternoon with his former business partner, Julian Williams. It was at this meeting that Pretorius allegedly shot Williams twice before turning the gun on himself.
Pretorius had received a number of withdrawal requests from investors in his Relative Value Arbitrage Fund (RVAF). These investors had been persuaded that the RVAF was perhaps not as safe as they had been led to believe.
It is likely that withdrawal requests were sparked by an article published by Moneyweb in June, which noted that Pretorius’s high returns had been questioned by financial advisers. See: Former hedge fund boss’s returns questioned.
Pretorius’s fund had a notice period of one month. Thus, by last week Thursday, he was probably due to pay out millions to several investors.
Pretorius gave no indication that the payment of investors would be a problem. Quite the opposite, in fact. He toldMoneyweb that he would welcome investors withdrawing their fund, because this would give him time to pursue other business interests, which included several private-equity ventures.
The invitation to investors to withdraw their funds may have been an attempt at reverse psychology. There is evidence that Pretorius had employed such methods in the past. For example, in May a financial adviser wrote the following of Pretorius’s fund: “Recently a big client withdrew his money because he was scared he might lose it. After a couple of weeks of earning nothing in the bank he wanted to re-invest it and Pretorius refused to take his money back.”
True or not, this story had clearly done the rounds among Pretorius’s broker and investor network. It would have had the effect of making them think twice before withdrawing their funds and thus permanently losing out on earning the good returns reported.