By Denise A. Valdez, Senior Reporter
THE Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is warning the public against engaging in representatives of an investment group called “PhilHelp”.
The regulator issued an advisory on its website saying PhilHelp Administration of Financial Marketing/PhilHelp International Lending Corp. is not authorized to offer investment opportunities.
The group, which runs its own website and uses social media to find investors, is not registered with the commission, the SEC said.
What it has is a business name registration for PhilHelp Administration of Financial Marketing with the Department of Trade and Industry, which does not authorize it to solicit investments from the public.
“PhilHelp is not registered either as a crowdfunding intermediary or a funding portal… [T]hose who act as salesmen, brokers, dealers or agents [of PhilHelp]… may be prosecuted and held criminally liable,” the SEC said.
“[T]he public is advised not to invest or stop investing in any investment scheme being offered by [PhilHelp] and exercise caution in dealing with any individuals or group of persons soliciting investments or recruiting investors for and on (its) behalf,” it added.
On its website, PhilHelp claims to offer loans through peer-to-peer lending, with international operations in Ukraine and Mexico.
Its scheme, as explained by the SEC, guarantees up to 180% profit to lenders by investing a P2,000-P5 million capital. Investors may earn more through direct and indirect referrals as well.
“[T]he lending activity of PhilHelp is a circumvention of the Lending Company Regulation Act of 2007, which requires that those engaged in the business of lending must be a corporation and must secure a Certificate of Authority to Operate as a Lending Company,” the SEC said.
However, PhilHelp denied the accusations of the SEC in a statement on Sunday. It said it reached out to the regulator to ask about the complaint it received that triggered the advisory, but was not given a copy.
“PhilHelp is not a company engaged in lending, nor does it sell securities, morely, and, it does note operate as a crowdfunding intermediary… PhilHelp only offers a virtual marketing platform which provides a ‘Peer-to-Peer Lending’ wherein lenders and borrowers meet,” it said in the statement sent to BusinessWorld.
“We believe that we were single-handedly accused by the said SEC division without doing a thorough investigation,” it added.
Based on the SEC advisory, representatives of PhilHelp may be fined a maximum of P5 million, imprisoned for up to 21 years, or both. Their names will also be reported to the Bureau of Internal Revenue for appropriate penalties.