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Engineer rallies ABCP investors on Facebook

'Duty Of Care'


Jim Middlemiss

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

An Alberta investor who has been saddled with $750,000 in asset-backed commercial paper in his RRSP is turning to Facebook.com to rally retail investors who are stuck holding the troubled paper.

Brian Hunter, 53, an oil-and-gas engineer, said that "very little attention has been paid to the individual investor." He said the attention has focused on large institutional investors and the little guy has been overlooked. "Let's see if there's something that can be done," he added.

On Friday, he took to the Internet and created a group on Facebook called Canaccord and Other ABCP Investors.

The site, which so far has four people who have signed on, including Mr. Hunter and his wife, includes copies of correspondence that he has purportedly had with lawyer Purdy Crawford, who is head of the investors committee assigned to develop and implement a workout plan.

The ABCP market, worth about $35-billion, froze last summer and players involved have been struggling to arrive at a solution that would see the paper start to trade again. The plan is to turn it into long-term notes and, if investors hold those for five to 10 years, they will get their money back.

Mr. Hunter, who is unrelated to the oil-futures trader with the same name, said he looked at places such sites as investment Web site Stock-house. ca to start a forum, but settled on Facebook.

"I am trying to put a personal face on it. I want to get interest from the guys who are restructuring this to have some duty of care for those of us who have been caught up in it."

It's believed to be one of the first times that a social networking Web site has been used in such a fashion in Canada.

"This is the first time I've really seen individual investors or small investors using Facebook for a business-related issue or goal," said Carmi Levy, senior vice-president, strategic consulting, at AR Communications Inc. in Toronto.

"This is where grassroots organization takes place today, on sites like Facebook. It allows you to rapidly assemble large groups of like-minded people in ways you simply could not accomplish using traditional tools such as e-mail or instant messaging."

That's what Mr. Hunter hopes. He knows that he is not alone and believes that based on e-mail exchanges he has had with Canaccord, there could be at least 20 more people like him at that firm alone.

While financial institutions such as National Bank and Desjardins have said they will reimburse retail investors for their loss, other financial institutions have not followed suit.

Mr. Hunter, who hopes other investors will reach him through the site or by e-mail at windyfield@hotmail.com, figures retail investors could be holding as much a $2-billion of the paper, but that's only a guess. He said there has been a lack of disclosure by the investor's committee, which he believes lacks representation from small investors such as himself.

He said the problem is that the process is dominated by larger players, who have a vested interest in the financial markets.

"This is not an investor's committee. There ain't an investor on there who has one dollar in it [personally]. That would be my view. They don't feel the same pain as I do."
 

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