Reader Tomi writes, “My mum wishes to sell shares of her Nigerian stock, but her broker seems to have disappeared. How can she go about getting her shares sold?”
Ugh. What a terrible feeling. Your stockbroker, the guys who are supposed to guide you through the stock investing process are no longer to be found.
Unfortunately, Tomi’s mum isn’t the only Nigeria investor to face this problem. In the wake of Nigeria’s financial crisis, the Nigerian Stock Exchange made an attempt to restore investor confidence by suspending 61 brokerage firms that failed to meet minimum capitalization requirements. This resulted in lots of confusion for these brokers’ customers, leaving them with questions much like Tomi’s.
But don’t despair, Tomi. Your mum’s shares most likely haven’t disappeared, and as I’ve learned from the Nigerian brokers quoted below, there are a number of people who can assist you with tracking them down.
Find Your Share Certificate or CSCS Statement
“Thankfully, there are ways around a disappeared broker,” says Abdulmuttalib Garba of Dunn Loren Merrifield.
The first thing to do is to find out whether your mum has a share certificate. Until relatively recently, publicly-traded Nigerian companies issued certificates to investors whenever they purchased their shares. This certificate indicated the investor’s name and the number of shares purchased.
If Tomi’s mother still had a copy of this certificate in her possession, selling the shares would be a relatively simple matter. She would just open an account with another (hopefully more dependable) stockbroker and ask them to sell the shares. Because the Nigerian Stock Exchange no longer uses share certificates, the new broker will likely ask her to fill out some additional paperwork to de-materialize the old certificate and enter its information into the exchange’s electronic clearinghouse, the Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS).
If a share certificate is lost or was never issued, the next piece of information to look for is a CSCS statement. This statement shows all the shares owned by an investor. If she has this, all Tomi’s mum needs to do is present the statement when opening a new brokerage account and they will be able to sell her shares.
No Documentation? Try the Company Share Registrar
But what happens if you’ve lost your share certificate and the CSCS doesn’t have record of you?
“In Nigeria,” says John Agbo, Managing Director of Standard Alliance Capital and Asset Management, “you need to provide a sworn affidavit to the company registrar.”
The registrar’s role is to keep track of all the company’s share movement, no matter whether those shares have been dematerialized or not. Because the CSCS only monitors shares that have already been dematerialized, says Bukola Oluwadiya, Managing Director of Magnartis Finance and Investment, the registrar is your best bet when shares have been lost.
“Your particulars will be taken along with a signature sample. The registrar will then investigate the claim and issue a new share certificate if they determine the claim is valid,” says Agbo.
The biggest worry would be that the broker sold the shares without Tomi’s mum’s permission to do so. Even if this were to be the case, Garba says the CSCS could still access the shares for her because it mirrors all of her share-trading activity.
No matter what the circumstances, tracking down the shares can involve significant paperwork, says Oluwadiya. Investors can authorize a broker or agent to track down the shares on their behalf for a fee.
What Did I Miss?
Have you ever lost track of your broker? Or lost a share certificate? How did you resolve the situation? Let us know in the comments!