Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Silver Certificates and failure to redeem.

One of our fellow Silver Bugs has come to me with a problem about the redemption of silver certificates in bullion (not money), and he and I would like your input.

I'll let him tell the story in his own words then we will look at the text of the certificates and discuss what is happening here.

Nov 29

Good day "lord of wealth"
I purchased a 100oz silver certificate from TD Canada Trust a couple of months ago. Ever since, I have been having a heck of a time getting it "redeemed" - not cashed. After a lot of BS, and finally making the trip to T.O. I was told that they do not have to provide me the silver because the circumstances preventing them from giving it to me, are "beyond their control" (As per term 1 on the certificate) This despite the fact that I pointed out a number of sources for 100oz of silver, albeit above spot price.
Who would you think would be a better contact for me, The RCMP fraud unit, or my lawyer? Is there any interest for a class-action suit in the silver certificate holding community?

Dec 2

I contacted TD, and they informed me that they are making the calls now.
Never the less - I have attached copies of my certificate. I am interested in what others have to say about the bank's obligation to procure the silver, based on the conditions listed

Dec 4
Well, LoW. I went back to TD Canada Trust to surrender my silver certificate, and they said didn't have any silver. I then explained to them that rumour had it that Scotia Bank received 30,000 ounces of silver that morning. The securities dept told them that ScotiaBank wouldn't sell them any silver.
Once again, I explained my position, and told them threat they were in "breach of contract" and that it was not acceptable. I was asked if I would like an explanation from TD's legal dept, to which I said yes.

Within the hour I received a call from the branch with a proposed compromise. I would purchase 100oz of silver from ScotiaBank, and TD would buy my certificate for the cost of the silver.
I agreed, and the next morning I purchased 100oz of silver, and brought the receipt to TD. Which they said that they would deal with during trading hours the next day. Everyone's happy right???
TD calls me this morning, and tells me that they won't refund me for the silver - They claim that they will not buy coins - only bars. (I wish they would have told me this earlier)

Long story short... I now have 100oz of physical silver being delivered by ScotiaBank next week, and a contract with TD that they refuse to honour....

(does) Anyone else hold worthless silver certificates from TD that they want redeemed for silver?

Any interest in a class action against TD?

I contacted the OSC today, and they don't know too much about these certificates, but they did give me some more leads. I contacted TD's ombudsman this afternoon.

click on certificates to enlarge

The clause used to justify non delivery from paragraph 1 under the conditions on the back of the certificate states

“The holder of this certificate accepts the risk of non-delivery for any reason beyond the control of the bank”

While not explicitly stated I believe they could be baulking on delivery for one or more of the reasons below.

1. They may not actually have any silver to back up these certificates, in any size, shape or brand let alone highly desirable 100 oz bars.

2. If they do have bars they can't find any to fulfill redemption in the size requested.

3. If they do have bars they do not have the means or want the added cost of reminting 1000 oz bars into the desired size

4. While they can find 100 oz bars on the market they don't want to pay the difference between the questionably low spot price they sold the certificate for and the real price reflected in the physical metals market.

5. The certificates are issued with enough conditions that the banks don't feel the need to honour redemption.

6. The banks know they can create enough road blocks and stall the process until "most" people settle in paper.

7. Add your own theory, because I may have missed something totally logical and innocuous

So does

"for any reason beyond the control of the bank"

under these circumstances justify a lack of redemption?

I would think not because there is silver on the market if you are willing to pay the price.

If the TD chose not to back their certificates with real silver, should investors be penalized for TDs poor business decision?

If they did back all of the certificates or at least backed some portion of them on a factional basis, should they not have made reasonable accommodations to maintain a supply of common sized bars to meet redemption requests?

If supply is so tight that TD knows it cannot redeem the certificates they previously sold should they be selling more of them?

This certificate was only sold a few months ago and considering the inability of getting bullion in many sizes this year should the bank not have know it was not redeemable then?

Was our friend told redemption was next to impossible when he bought it?

The certificate clearly states you can get physical redemption. The banks failure to adequately back up the certificates with deliverable silver does not seem to be "Beyond their Control", in fact it was entirely in their control. They chose not to buy the physical silver they offer to redeem, or they chose not to have the sizes and shapes that represent the average client purchases.

Another issue is the yearly fee stated on the front of the certificates. GICs, term deposits, bonds etc do not have such fees so the reasonable assumption to make is this fee must be represent a storage fee for keeping your silver safe and dusted. Since silver and gold bullion are known to have storage costs, is this not it?

If not, what is the fee for?

Either way it looks bad, silver and gold take up space and it's practically universal for banks charge a fee to store bullion. If there is no fee there is probably no metal. If there is a fee, there should be metal. So naturally when there is a fee and no metal at the same time something would seem to be wrong.

TD itself is rather confusing on the whole issue at one point they say
Free Safekeeping
TD Waterhouse provides free safekeeping on all securities, except gold and silver certificates. For your convenience, we recommend your securities remain in our TD Waterhouse account at all times. That way, you will not have to monitor delivery deadlines and make repeated trips to a safety deposit box.

Notice they say safe keeping of securities not assets, so is the fee for storing their copy of the certificate, or the metals?


TD Waterhouse offers several investment alternatives for clients who want to take a position in precious metals, but don't want to worry about the storage costs and insurance against theft that are usually required when purchasing gold or silver bullion:

So here they are saying you can buy certificates to avoid fees, yet the certificates have fees stamped on their front.

I'm getting confused.

If a bank is charging you a fee, which (we believe) is for storage, should they not be storing something? If they are storing something for you should they not be able to identify that item or even better deliver it to you?

Is this the same issue I related to you last fall when Ted Bulter wrote about Morgan Stanely settling a class action lawsuit for not buying metals to back certificates and charging a fee to store nothing?

One thing I did notice, While the certificate mentions redemption and conditions on redemption at no place does it ever specifically mention being backed by silver. By calling it a silver certificate it's implied they are backing it with silver but nothing on the certificate actually supports that belief. I'd like to ask a bank's investment advisor if they are represented by real metal or not. Do they even know what they are selling?

Now it's unclear at this time if this particular certificate will get redeemed. TD has moved somewhat to placate a pissed off client but there is still no satisfaction and there are some bigger issues that this single 100 oz certificate.

What about all the others who have these certificates?

What if they also demanded bullion?

We need to know if TD, Scotia or any other bank that sells silver certificates have 100% bullion backing for their obligation?

If not how much backing is there?

If not why are people asked to pay a yearly fee?

If not what are they doing with money that should have purchased silver? Investing it elsewhere and hedging against the silver position in the futures market perhaps? Are they betting against your investment by going short silver?

Is there even enough silver on the market to cover all the obligations created by all the banks selling certificates?

Is their ability to redeem gold also suspect?

If they do not have the metal, how much money have metal investors lost because their purchases never impacted the demand side of the price equation?

It's quite possible given the revelations in the Morgan Stanley case that 100s of millions of dollars, industry wide, that should have been soaking up silver and gold ounces never did so, robbing investors of the appreciation the added demand would have caused.

In Morgan Stanley's case 22,000 investors believed they had bought silver and gold (not a promise) and then adding insult to injury they were charged to store it. Even $1000 for each client would have added $22 million to metals demand. Now consider many of these people had much more than $1000 dollars in certificates and there are many more banks than just Morgan Stanley offering these products.

Metal investors need to go to their banks and demand redemption or proof of backing for their metal certificates. Ask for your serial numbers. I know Scotia is annal about recording those numbers when you buy physical silver so why don't banks give you the serial numbers associated to certificates, or at least a list of all the bars they hold backing the certificates

Canadian metal investors need to group together and go to the government, the OSC, the RCMP and the Press asking the above questions and demanding a full accounting of banks metals obligations(certificates) vs. their backing (bullion).

If we get deficient answers, this should move to court.

Your opinions on the issue are welcome, Am I missing something?

If anyone is in a similar situation and wishes to organize with others, email me and I'll arrange contact with other concerned investors.

For anyone trying to redeem a certificate ask the right questions and argue that failure to back their certificates with the metal they promised was most assuredly under their control and you require satisfaction.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Great Silver Safari, leads to a trophy.

A rumour came across my desk this morning that there was wild silver roaming the streets near my place of employment. Always ready for a challenge I donned my fiat currency patterned cammo, grabbed the Save the Orphan charity box from the local Tim Horton’s and proceeded into the wilds of downtown Toronto in search of elusive silver.

The light dusting of snow aided little as the small foot prints of silver rounds were soon stomped out by the great cloven feet of bay street executives. Being unarmed and without the protective powers of a six digit lawyer (or is that 666 digit lawyer) I skirted around these bestial creatures with their pointed horns, acidic drool and fetid breath.

3 times I walked up and down Bay Street until I heard the pure ring that only a silver coin can produce right in front of Scotia Plaza. Keeping near the walls and shadows I worked my way towards the currency desk, crawled past the security guys who always give me that “you’re not dressed well enough to be in our bank look” and finally standing and sprinting to the head of the forming line of other wild eyed metal buyers.

Things were looking good until I realized I had just picked the smuggest little shit of a teller I’ve ever encountered in 4 years of dealing with metals. He did not want to chat about the metals market, he told me that there is no shortage just no small bars(duh, the market wants something and it does not exist, to me that is a shortage), he would not tell me how much the received in the recent shipment, I did not even bother asking about what was selling and what was not because he was just too snotty.

I told the teller I write on Silver and I wanted to know how much they had before I informed my readers to drop by and he responded, “Don’t write about it we don’t want a panic in here” Well mister snotty, I hope I do have enough local readers to cause a panic and I hope they all lecture you about the realities of the silver market.

What really mattered however is I bagged the silver, the hunt was successful and I can tell you Scotia Bank received a load yesterday of brand new , 2009 Silver Maples and if the past is any guide it was probably in the range of 30,000 ounces, which lasted 2 weeks last time they got them in.

They also have Scotia brand 1 oz silver bars which should sell a little cheaper and be PST free compared to the Maples. MR smug also claimed big bars were not in shortage so 1000s should be available.

I can also tell you with some certainly that Scotia has gold bars and rounds in 1oz and fractional sizes because I saw them being sold, this a.m.

I hope this little find will be of use to my local readers and please DO cause a panic at the desk.

I also wanted to thank all those who voted for me last week and let you all to know I made the final round of the Canadian Blog Awards coming in the top 5 of 22 nominees.
For those interested please drop by and support the only real money blog in the running this year,

Good hunting