Beware

High Street Group

The Mirror Investigation

Last week the Mirror’s Andrew Penman investigated one of the introducers flooding Google Ads with high-risk unregulated investments targeted at savers looking for non-high-risk savings. His article, Scamming with impunity: the GoogleAd sham investment comparison websites, is well worth a read.

Penman turned the spotlight on Ilian Stoimenov, who had parked his caravan on the Google search results for “good ISA rates”. One of the first hits was for sterling-isa.com, aka Lead Generation Limited.

It has a single director, a 35-year-old Bulgarian called Ilian Stoimenov, who coyly gives Companies House an accommodation address in Covent Garden, London.

So far this month, two of his sites have been added to the FCA’s warning list – excellent-bonds.com and isa-search.co. The watchdog’s entry for each one states: “This firm is not authorised by us and is targeting people in the UK.”

Probably for reasons of space, Penman didn’t go into the actual investments recommended by Stoimenov’s excellent-bonds.com outfit.

High Street Group Connection

I can reveal, thanks to a reader who has asked to remain uncredited, that excellent-bonds.com is promoting High Street Group.

Specifically, excellent-bonds.com is promoting Keystone Property, which is High Street Group by another name (and smelling exactly as sweet).

Keystone Property Group offers identical terms to investors as High Street Group, namely its distinctive 7 year loan notes starting at 12% per year and rising to 22% per year in the seventh year. Keystone’s website lists one of HSG’s proudest erections, Hadrian’s Tower in Newcastle, as one of its own projects, using the same picture as High Street Group.

I could go on, but we can leave it at Keystone = High Street Group.

After the reader gave their details (not their real ones) to excellent-bonds.com, they were contacted by an Account Manager at Keystone, who confirmed they used Excellent Bonds as their marketing company.

The Keystone Dilemma

Keystone solicited investment from the reader claiming “an average annual return of 20% per annum”, and misleadingly compared their high-risk unregulated property notes to the returns available from an investment in the FTSE 100 and cash savings accounts (among others), both of which are significantly lower risk than a loan to an unlisted company. The FCA has confirmed that comparing the returns from high-risk unregulated investments to cash accounts is misleading.

I reviewed High Street Group’s bonds in January 2018 on Gripeo.com, noting their high-risk nature, in contrast to introducers who over-egged their “Corporate Guarantee” (which is only as good as High Street Group itself).

Last October High Street Group’s lawyers attempted to shut down The Skeptic Tank – not just my review but this Platform in its entirety – over inaccurate whinging that I’d “questioned our client’s conduct” and “appeared to suggest that our client is not truthful and their actions are not be trusted” [sic]. At no point did either my review or a follow-up news article on HSG’s 2017 accounts suggest that HSG was not truthful or not to be trusted.

I have never had any contact whatsoever from High Street Group or their lawyers directly and that remains the case – the complaint was directed at my webhosts. I have heard nothing further since last October.

Conclusion

So let’s be clear – I question whether any company in the UK should be using introducers which misleadingly promote their bonds to retail investors using Google Ads.

The FCA has issued a generic fire-and-forget warning on its website against excellent-bonds.com. Despite High Street Group’s habitual use of unregulated introducers who misleadingly promote its high-risk bonds, no action against High Street Group’s investment scheme has been taken by the FCA that is in the public domain.

High Street Commercial Finance Limited (the company issuing the bonds) is 8 months overdue with its December 2018 accounts. Although failure to file accounts on time is a criminal offence, no action has been taken against the company or its directors that is in the public domain.

Starting in April 2019, readers reported that High Street Group was trying to avoid repaying their investments in cash when they fell due, by offering to pay them in High Street Group shares instead.

Due to its failure to file legally-required accounts, how much investor money is at risk in High Street Group is not known. In December 2017 High Street Commercial Finance owed £37.5 million to loan investors, but it’s anyone’s guess how much that is now after two and a half years of hard work by Stoimenov, Conway and co.

9 Comments
  1. I invested in HSG 7 year loan note a year ago and sent several emails to them requesting 2 out of 3 of my investments back as I was within the one year anniversary but I was told this needs to be in writing, I sent a signed letter by courier and have been told I would only be allowed to cash in my 3rd investment as I didn’t give 30 days notice in writing for the first two. I have been told that the investment made end of October 2019 would be paid but not until 60 days after the anniversary. Can someone tell me does their contract stipulate ‘in writing’ and does this require a letter or should an email suffice.

  2. Keystone = High Street Group is factually incorrect. I know Keystone and they are just an unregulated introducer (albeit not a very good one) its companies like Keystone that gives people like me, who have, and will always have, our clients interests at heart a bad name!

  3. Reply
    Sandgrounder Mike
    July 23, 2020 at 8:47 am

    Sorry Bob-it looks like the coffers are dry at least until new investors can be “persuaded” to subscribe and this is becoming more and more difficult. The recent rumour that work has stopped on the Westminster Works (“WW”) site in Birmingham is true! United Living which was working for HSG on this site is no longer working for them and are referring all enquiries to HSG. HSG has said that due to Covid (ha,ha) they are in talks with contractors i.e. they have no money to pay them. So far I have not had a detailed response from Fortwell Capital (“FC”). FC is funding the WW development (up to £31.1 million on the basis of 75% of Gross Development Value (“GDV”). There is clearly a problem! I am guessing but I believe that the project is over budget and FC wish to see more funds injected by HSG before it will continue with its funding arrangements. This is not unusual. My guess would be that FC has been pushing HSG to inject funds for some time. FC may continue to be patient and wait hoping that HSG will be in a position to inject further funds in the near future OR it could exercise its security and take possession of the development and find a way to complete it itself. Time will tell!

    If FC exercises its security and takes control of the site any equity that HSG may have had in this site will almost certainly be completely lost.

    If the numbers stack up there might just be a small possibility that HSG could persuade a “vulture” investor to take a look and help provide the additional finance needed to enable FC to continue with its funding agreement. However, I would imagine that HSG has already tried to do this and has failed.

  4. I don’t seem to be able to get them to pay me anything. They keep promising, but I never receive anything……………….

  5. It sounds like investors need to work collectively to get information from them. This is what the investors did with Blackmore (with professional advisors in tow)

    It’s not unreasonable to request management information (especially in these uncertain times).

  6. I think high street group offer a high risk high return investment? What is wrong with that, its as if you dont want to see any non regulated investment offerings??? FCA regulated Investments fail aswell!! Stop targeting one type of investment and review at all investment types. or are you FCA regulated yourself? The public should have a right to make informed choices with their OWN money!

  7. High Street Group paid me back on each loan note progressively later and later. I was introduced via Avantis Wealth in Brighton. I would never lend to them again. Both Gary Forrest (Chairman) and Gary O’Hara (operations manager) defended their poor management of cashflow by saying that High Net Worths getting such a high double digit return shouldn’t quibble over a few weeks or a couple of months’ delay. No apology. I voted with my feet.

  8. Having “Keystone Property Group” on investment literature, as if Keystone is the one issuing the loans (when it’s actually HSG), and naming HSG’s Gary Forrest as the Chairman of Keystone on Keystone-headed brochures goes beyond being an introducer.

    Introducer, white-label, front, whatever you want to call it, an investment in Keystone = an investment in HSG.

Leave a reply

The Skeptic Tank
Register New Account
Reset Password
Compare items
  • Total (0)
Compare
0