Due Diligence Fail from BBC World Business

By Richard Smith, who is easily distracted.

I promised in my last meander, about international scammers and media screwups, that my next post was going to be set in Australia. But I found this little gem, while looking for something else, and so the exotic locations this time are Colombia and Vancouver (the big Canadian Vancouver, not the little Vancouver in Washington, US, which, as it happens, might also get a look-in in a future post in this rambling series).

But this one is still about scammers and media screwups, so we are still on track, sort of. Here’s BBC World Business giving Rahim Jivraj an opportunity to puff his pump-and-dump Colombian mining company, Mercer Gold.

That was February 16th 2011. What a pity it is that the researchers at BBC World Business hadn’t found out how to use Google by then. If they had, they might have found this (10th Sept 2010), from the blogger Otto Rock, at the blog IKN, about Mercer Gold:

The stock is open for promotion and will try to jump on the Colombia gold bandwagon, but the management team put together has an air of improvisation about it (new recruit James Stonehouse ran the local ops of the trainwreck known as Ascendant Copper/Copper Mesa, kicked out of Ecuador due to bad practices) and inquiries made by this author regarding the property have been met with comments such as “skinny veins…..ok for smalltime producing….will probably be good for a flashy NR headline….not a real mine”. So once the $2m is spent and the pumped-up headlines are shot, MRGP is 100% certain to be adding paper in return for extra cash before too long.

There’s a rejoinder from the company’s geologist Keith Laskowski here (12th Sept 2010), but it doesn’t seem to put off our man at IKN, who publishes this (20th Sept 2010):

… we ran this post that included director and geologist Keith Laskowski’s differing opinion on points raised by this humble author’s position.

All fair enough and we admired (and still admire) Laskowski’s wherewithall in replying, pushing back on the IKN post and also agreeing to allow his mail to be put in the public sphere. Here at IKN nerve centre we have no problem about that and no problem at all over the potential of the Guayabales deposit as explained by its director, but once again we’re forced to raise a red flag on the stock as today it’s getting its name screamed at the naive by bullshit boilerhouse pennystock pump houses in some sort of paid-for in-cahoots concerted promo push.

That gets Otto a legal threat, the very next day, from the soon-to-be televised Rahim Jivraj. At which Otto scoffs:

Now for obvious reasons I’m not going to directly paste up here his private mail to this author without permission, but what we can do without problems is offer my full reply to him, which went like this:

So how come you popped up on those scumbags’ radar? Just unlucky, I guess.

Rahim, I was not born yesterday. You know the one about “if it walks like a duck?”. You’re the duck. So if you want to jump straight from point A to point ‘legal action’, well I suggest you better just get on and do it. Your lazy threats are of no import to me and it’ll be interesting to find out just how much of it is pure talk.

He then wrote back quickly and I can report he backtracked somewhat, saying that his his threat of legal action wasn’t a threat at all (note to readers; it was and he’s a lying scumball).

And Otto follows up with an explanation of how these pump and dumps work; (23rd September 2010),

Otto notes a couple of days later that the legal threat has not been followed by any action (25th September 2010).

Next Otto kindly identifies the man behind the scam, Brent Pierce, (9th October 2010), and notes that killer bad sign, the resignation of the Chief Geologist, (4th November 2010). The new capital raisings foreshadowed in Otto’s posting here (30th December 2010) further substantiate Otto’s claim that there’s a pump and dump underway.

Mercer Gold issue one last bit of tortured PR (4th January), glossed by Otto as follows:

DENVER, Jan. 4, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Mercer Gold Corporation (“Mercer Gold” or the “Company”) (OTCQB: MRGP; AN4 -Frankfurt) has received a whole heap of crappy gold and silver values from Hole MGDH-02 from the Guayabales Gold Project in the Marmato District in Caldas Department, Colombia but is determined to slap a kilo of lipstick on this pig and try to pass off the pisspoor results as something positive and encouraging.

To that end, we publish the mediocre grades but immediately launch into a whole bunch of geological babble to try and pull the wool over the eyes of those stupid enough to have believed us in the first place and who have already bought into our spiel. We understand the power of suggestion and affirmation because that’s exactly how this type of scam manages to survive more than a few weeks.

The company is also pleased to report that we managed to re-negotiate optioning terms with the local owners of our property. This is because we didn’t spend enough money on the property in 2010 due to the fact that we have no cash to spend. We’re now obliged to spend $5.75m in 2011 which means that either we’re going to dilute your asses to kingdom come or that we’re going to lapse on the terms of the deal at the end of 2011 and lose the whole shebang.

Next (we are now back at Feb 16th 2011) Mercer Gold co-opt the numbskulls at BBC World Business Scam, who haven’t noticed any of Otto’s very penetrating and accurate commentary. Which means they haven’t done much in the way of background checking their Colombian mining expert, Rahim Jivraj, and Mercer Gold; not even a couple of Google searches.

Just 6 weeks later, (29th March 2011) Mercer Gold dumps.

The typical junior mining scam such as Mercer Gold (MRGP.ob) that’s pumped by paid newsletter tripe suddenly swandives and dumps out on no apparent newsflow. This is because the scum behind it, in this case previously convicted securities fraudster Gordon Brent Pierce, decide to pull the plug and get out with whatever’s left over. Meanwhile the poor bagholder innocent are left wondering WTF is going on.

If anyone can find any trace of BBC Business World following up on the dump part of the story, I’d be happy to post it.

By contrast, there are no worries about Otto following up: he records further shenanigans here (he was right about the man behind the scam) and here.

Overall  I reckon we can notch up a score to the blogger and a black mark to the BBC.

Maybe one day I’ll have something more to say about Colombian mining. It is full of, ahem, color. Or colour.

Let’s see if we make it to Australia in my next. In the mean time, BBC World Business join FT Advisors FT Advisers FTAdviser, Reuters, the BBC, The Sun, The Oxford Mail and BBC Radio Oxford in NC’s trophy cabinet of scammers’ stenographers.

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  1. Cody Willard

    Great article as usual, Richard. I hit on a similar theme last week myself:

    “When you see press releases touting a research report touting a penny stock, I would run for the hills. I haven’t played the lottery once in my life, haven’t even contributed a dollar to the office funds when the jackpot is through the roof, but I would probably rather buy a lottery ticket than just about any small-cap (less than $250 million market cap) penny stock.


    And here’s me having done my homework back when I was a TV anchor and ripping to shreds one of these more famous guys who get paid to promote the kind of crap like Colombian mining penny stocks, by the way:


    I hated being a TV anchor in large part because I spent my life pissing off my producers/bookers/bosses when they’d work so hard to book somebody and then I’d either try to veto them and end up blasting them because…I know how to Google and have been around the block seeing these scams.

    Anyway, great job as usual, I’ll be linking to both your articles.

  2. K Ackermann

    This was great.

    So how does BBC World Business pick up a story like like Mercer gold? Are they paid to look the other way?

  3. don

    Plenty of color in Guyana too, where gold miners, when not busy inflicting damage to waterways, are being murdered by thieves.


    This one killed across the border in Venezuela.


    Gold fever in Latin America no longer leads to the mass killing of indigenous, instead the fatalities are much less pronounced.

  4. I Will Never Accept the Terms of Service

    I’m a reader of IKN, but I’m also someone who’s dealt with (read: WORKED) the press a bit in the past.

    These sorts of things happen because people in the media are simply lazy. They’re so lazy that they will reprint a news release verbatim, if only you’re nice enough to write it in newspaper style for them.

    You’d think that the BBC is better than that. But this ain’t BBC World Service, it’s the cable TV side, and the state of journalism worldwide generally has been declining.

    Also, the employee tasked with “finding an expert in Colombian mining” may have been in way over his expertise level. Even worse, read IKN more often and you’ll find that almost nobody has any clue about the state of mining in Colombia, or any other country in Latin America, and that includes the folks at the serious, professional investment houses.

  5. jake chase

    Has anyone noticed that this site is peppered with pennystock comeon ads? I think those deals have been illegal in the US since 1990, when brokers were disabled from retailing stocks selling for under $5. Or did Bob Rubin, Larry Summers and Phil Gramm get that statute repealed too?

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