Reuters Investigates

Insight and investigations from our expert reporters

With Chinese small caps, it’s buyer beware

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Today’s special report “Chinese stock scams are the latest U.S. import” shows again that when it comes to a bargain, it’s buyer beware. In this case, when a small-cap Chinese stock seems to promise outlandish growth, it might be worth finding out more before you buy.

Some of the questionable companies made their way onto U.S. exchanges via reverse mergers — a private company buys enough shares of a public firm to essentially become publicly traded.

NYSE and Nasdaq have delisted several companies and have a veritable “skid row” of more than a dozen firms that have been halted for weeks or months pending requests for information about accounting problems and late regulatory filings. (For an up-to-date list, see: http://www.nasdaqtrader.com/Trader.aspx?id=Tradehalts)

Of the more than 600 companies that obtained entry to U.S. exchanges via reverse mergers between January 2007 and March 2010, a total of 159 were from the China region, according to the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB). While many are legitimate, some turn out to be outright pump-and-dump schemes and other scams.

The ETF war is hotting up

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BOSTON – A battle royal is shaping up in the world of exchange-traded funds. After years of trailing in the race to attract new money from ETF investors, fund giant Vanguard is poised to take the top spot from iShares this year. But the big winners will be investors who are seeing fees plummet.

Aaron Pressman looks at the winners and losers in his special report “What did you do in the ETF war, daddy?”

Inside the Pirates’ Web

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CHINA-PIRACY/Reuters trade correspondent in Washington Doug Palmer had an unusual assignment: buy a fake Louis Vuitton handbag on the Internet, and take it to a LVMH store for a comparison test, before handing it over to U.S. authorities.

    What was startling was how easy it was to find websites selling a dazzling array of stuff online. This is the new face of
piracy and its costing businesses billions.   No need to skulk around back alleys or some pirate’s rental van to browse through footwear, watches, DVDs and whatnot. Just pick out your LV shoulder tote from a virtual catalog on a website based in China. It looks and feels like the real thing at a fraction of the price.

Mongolia’s El Dorado stirs shareholder battle

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friedlandIn Mongolia’s South Gobi desert lies Oyu Tolgoi, touted as having the world’s largest untapped copper and gold deposits. Little wonder then that this “El Dorado” has become a boardroom battleground between the relatively unknown Ivanhoe Mines and its biggest shareholder, the giant Australian mining company, Rio Tinto.  

Our attempts to get near this mine or elicit any comment from Ivanhoe were about as fruitless as the Spanish conquistadors attempts to find the legendary “El Dorado”, or “Lost City of Gold” in the 16th century. Twice Ivanhoe stopped our reporters from visiting the mine with delegations from the investment community, saying reporters were not  allowed to mingle with bankers on visits to the mine. We don’t know why that would be. We mingle with them pretty often in other contexts and usually find each other’s company amusing and mutually informative.

Morbid money-spinners

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If the life settlements market seems ghoulish, here’s a British scandal which isn’t doing the image of the business any favours. It’s one of the worst the country’s seen.

Around 30,000 mainly elderly investors in the UK put their money into a company called Keydata, hoping to make a little extra cash to fund their own retirement with the promise of a healthy return.