LONDON: Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt MP has assured that she will raise the issue of short-seller Viceroy Research and its head Fraser John Perring’s Russian state links with Britain’s Security Minister Tom Tugendhat MBE.
Penny Mordaunt made this assurance after a high-profile Labour parliamentarian Liam Byrne told the British Parliament the head of short-selling Viceroy Research and its leader Perring has links with the Russian state.
Labour MP Liam Byrne raised the alarm during a debate in the House of Commons and asked the British government to look into the activities of Viceroy Research and Perring as a matter of urgency.
Penny Mordaunt MP, who has previously served as minister of state for the armed forces, thanked the Labour MP for raising questions on Viceroy Research’s “very important matter”.
The Leader of the House of Commons said: “I will ensure that the Security Minister (Tom Tugendhat MBE) has heard his concerns. He is overseeing the strengthening of the architecture in government to identify what is going on behind particular deals.”
She said the government has in recent years “strengthened capacity to spot what is going on and to ensure that everyone is wide-eyed about it. I will raise this case with the security minister”.
Sources have said that the ruling Conservative party’s MP and leader of the House of Commons has already raised the issue with the security minister who is looking into the serious concern. The minister, said the source, has expressed alarm at the revelations in the House of Commons.
Labour MP Liam Byrne spoke in a debate in parliament during the Business Question time. The Labour MP said the issue of Russian links of Viceroy Research and its leader Perring was serious in nature and that there should be a proper debate in the parliament.
Addressing his questions to Tom Tugendhat MBE, the security minister, the Labour MP said a debate in the parliament was necessary “on the activities of short-selling attack group Viceroy Research and its leader Fraser Perring”.
Liam Byrne said he has been told that Viceroy Research “works hand in glove with Boatman Capital, which launched the short-selling attack on Babcock International while it was overhauling our nuclear submarines”.
Liam Byrne raised questions about visits Perring to Russia on a frequent basis. “Mr John Fraser Perring is a not infrequent visitor to Moscow, and is now targeting Home REIT, which provides homelessness services, including those to homeless veterans. We must ensure that short-selling groups are not another weapon in Putin’s arsenal. Where there are links between short-selling attack groups and the Kremlins, we need to know,” he said.
Viceroy’s methods and ethics have long been called into question over several years. They have been the subject of allegations of plagiarism in the past and successfully sued for fake and defamatory statements.
Commissioned by Business Leadership South Africa, Intellidex had reported that Viceroy’s Steinhoff report was substantially plagiarised from a report produced by hedge fund Portsea Asset Management. The Intellidex report had said that Viceroy’s reporting varies wildly in quality and credibility and appears to interweave false statements into purported facts.
In two major litigation cases in the US and in South Africa, Perring was accused of conspiring to manipulate stock price, making false, defamatory, deceptive and misleading statements, impersonating personnel and creating fake whistleblowing accounts.
In 2021, the South African Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) fined Viceroy Research LLC and its partners Aiden Lau, Perring and Gabriel Bernarde R50 million ($3.5 million fine) for damaging and false remarks that the short-selling firm made about South Africa’s Capitec Bank (SA’s then fourth-most valuable bank).
The remarks triggered a 25% slump in Capitec’s share price in January 2018, wiping out almost R10 billion in value. According to the judgment, Viceroy had an agreement with a hedge fund, Oasis, which made an estimated profit of R82 million amid the panic selling. The share of Viceroy in the profit from short positions taken by Oasis on Capitec was estimated by the authority to be close to $744 482 (R10 million at the time), shared equally among the partners.
After Viceroy published a report into MPW, JP Morgan reported they had poor quality of research and a lack of understanding of the financial and other details of the businesses they attacked.
German financial watchdog Bafin said Viceroy had breached German securities law and ProSiebenSat.1, the German mass media company, stated allegations made in a report by Viceroy were “unfounded and distorting reality”. Under German law, any entity that is not a securities firm, a fund manager, an EU administrative firm or an investment company that intends to publish recommendations on investments in assets must notify Bafin ahead of time, it said, adding that Viceroy’s website did not contain information on where the company was based.
Perring — who has no financial training or background to speak of – himself has been described as dishonest by several reports and was struck off being a social worker due to falsifying records. He had been removed from the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) Register for failing to contact a child’s extended family to arrange alternate care and then falsifying case records to cover his failure whilst working for Lincolnshire County Council.
Earlier in March 2023, it was reported that Viceroy Research and Perring are being reported for market manipulation and wire fraud on Medical Properties Trust (MPW) to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the US, Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) in Australia and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in Britain. Since 2019 Viceroy has been based in the US after being convicted and fined for the same crime in South Africa.
Viceroy Research’s modus operandi to use dubious investigators, paid journalists and lawyers to use blackmailing tactics in order to pressure people and organisations are now under scrutiny. Lately in one case Viceroy Research used services of a shady private investigation firm “Tacet Global” run by Greg Gillespie who dissolved the company from UK Companies House register soon after a deal was accomplished with Viceroy Research.