Broker facing censure over Optical flotation

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The Independent Online
Leading Alternative Investment Market broker Gerrard Vivian Gray is likely to face Stock Exchange censure over the failure of its client Rupert Galliers- Pratt to disclose his directorships in a string of failed companies before his current company, Optical Care (Bermuda), was admitted to AIM in February.

Mr Galliers-Pratt was publicly rebuked by the Stock Exchange last month for omitting the information in the company's prospectus, but the Exchange did not take any action against Gerrard Vivian Gray, one of 60 "nominated adviser" firms authorised to sponsor flotations on the junior market.

The adviser will come under fire in a report currently being prepared by the Stock Exchange on the effectiveness of AIM nominated advisers ("nomads") in policing clients and making sure that investors receive full and timely disclosure of price-sensitive information.

An Exchange spokesman said firms can be removed from the list of nomads if their due diligence work has been inadequate. It is thought unlikely that Gerrard Vivian Gray will face such draconian measures.

Regulatory sources are "surprised" that Gerrard Vivian Gray had not conducted a basic search on Mr Galliers-Pratt's past directorships at Companies House before issuing Optical Care's admission document. The report, due in October, is expected to point to a number of failings by AIM companies to disclose relevant information.

It is expected to note the failure by a director of Firecrest, another AIM stock, to notify the Exchange over the granting of some share options in the company. Firecrest is also advised by Gerrard Vivian Gray.

The brokers have come under further scrutiny over the planned float of Skynet, a company that intends to market satellite tracking devices for cars.

The shares have been furiously traded on Ofex, the unregulated over- the-counter market, since June, rising 10-fold from 27p to 275p. The company intends to transfer its listing to AIM this month.

Two weeks ago the Exchange forced Tom Wilmot, an investor and the former boss of Harvard Securities, to reveal a 4.29 per cent stake in the venture. Harvard Securities was a leading share-dealing firm on the over-the-counter (OTC) market in the 1980s, and was closed in 1988 leaving investors with heavy losses.

Mr Wilmot is also thought to be an investor in Telecom Credit, another AIM company advised by Gerrard Vivian Gray, through Global Telecoms Overseas, a Panamanian-registered company.

If the report proposes more onerous regulation of AIM it could curtail the growth of the market, which came into being as successor to the Unlisted Securities Market in June last year.