Phishing for Financials
September 10th, 2014
“Good morning, my name is Oscar Jensen. I am 1 of 5 private investors of a consortium we call COPI (Consortium of Private Investors). […] We have come across the Dominion Airships website and we are very intrigued with the innovation.” So began a saga, a sideshow to the big show in the Canadian Standards Association’s (CSA’s) fight against PS Knight Co.
Apart from PS Knight Co, your correspondent also owns a small engineering firm called IREL Group, and IREL Group is the owner of the Dominion Aircraft programme. Dominion is a development project, and its very small indeed. And, apparently, Oscar was intrigued with us.
Oscar’s email wasn’t that unusual, IREL receives these sorts of inquiries fairly regularly. Most such inquiries are from mid-market institutionals pondering the prospect of investment with IREL as part of a broader energy or mining project. Of course, these inquiries are almost always from known firms, named finance houses, or at least they’re researchable. But Oscar used a Gmail account. That’s not quite as credible, so we weren’t quite as forthcoming with project information.
On June 23 we received another email from Oscar; “Since my last communication [this morning] I had further discussions with colleagues and before engaging in too much discussions with your group we would like to focus our attention on your current financial viability to pursue this admirable and interesting project.”
Swell. But we’re not keen on divulging sensitive information to the Gmail account of an unknown party and without so much as a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) in place. So we settled on a phone call.
On June 26, the day before the call, Oscar wrote to reassure us of his interest. “Looks like you have travelled an ambitious but fruitful journey and have reached a critical stage in the life of your project.” Alright, we appreciate the kudos.
The call itself was a fairly ho-hum affair. In the last eight years, your correspondent has run enough investor Q&A’s to do them more or less on autopilot. They’re project introductions, all basic, mostly public information, nothing sensitive or confidential, they’re real Dick-and-Jane discussions. This discussion was Dick-and-Jane too, save for one question at the very end of the call. Oscar wanted to know whether IREL was funding the PS Knight Co defence against the CSA’s lawsuit.
Well, IREL and PS Knight Co are unrelated entities and Oscar was advised of this, there’s no funding of PS Knight Co by IREL, nor has there ever been such funding. And the question itself is actually quite silly. The sum of legal defence costs are well under a million dollars, whereas the next phase of the Dominion program is over $120MM on an overall project value into the billions of dollars. And beyond this, any hypothetical transfer would be a recoverable loan of some sort, so either by scale or by recovery, PS Knight’s defence is materially irrelevant to Dominion investment. Oscar, in other words, was either a rubbish investor or was misrepresenting himself.
Still, he didn’t let up. On June 30th; “We have been around long enough to know that litigations are costly, we have paid our fair share of legal fees over our careers.” Now he’s blundering badly. “How can we be absolutely assured that the funding to finance your [defence against CSA] is not being funded from Dominion Airships?” Again, the ratios are all wrong for legitimate investor concern. It’s like being concerned about the financial health of the Royal Bank because they spend too much on paperclips.
Oscar was continually pressuring us for release of financial information showing a transfer of funds from IREL to PS Knight Co. Our assurances on the matter were repeated to the point of awkwardness, as was Oscar’s argumentation. We sent him an NDA for instance, as is standard practice for any firm prior to releasing financials. Of course, we also knew that completing an NDA would disclose who Oscar was, where he lived and who we worked for. There’s no NDA option for a Gmail identity.
On July 1, Oscar replied thusly; “I will be discussing the NDA with my colleagues tomorrow. In the meantime are you able to provide me some level of comfort with respect to the the last item on my last e-mail [financing legal defence] and funding not dipping into Dominion Airships? It is one area where we have some concern.”
We were polite with him, noting once again that there is no such transfer and there has never been any such transfer. We then pointed out that with an NDA in place we could clearly demonstrate that fact with financials. We declined to point out that the NDA would also clearly demonstrate who Oscar Jensen was, but its likely he already knew that.
We received Oscar’s reply on July 3; “Although interested and attracted to the potential of your project we remain cautious and have decided to take more time to research and assimilate what information we can gather to help us navigate through this process. We have 2 main hurdles (concerns) to overcome before we want to commit to an NDA.” Sorry, “commit” to an NDA? An NDA is, as the name implies, an agreement not to disclose project documentation. Its not rocket surgery. Either this man has no idea what an NDA is or there’s an ulterior motive in play.
In all of Oscar’s talk of Dominion, he kept coming back to PS Knight Co, the court case and our funding for defence. “We would like more information to satisfy ourselves that this litigation is not tapping into Dominion Airships finance.”
You know folks, early in CSA’s little war against us, we received a peculiar product order from a new customer in Ontario and, like Oscar Jensen, this customer didn’t seem awfully legitimate. He was ordering one of everything, like a sample of all our products. Apparently he was doing some really aggressive electrical work. Well, we did some digging on this guy. It turns out that his aggressive electrical work was all taking place inside his posh condo in Toronto. He even ordered our guidebook for wiring in British Columbia. We sent it to his Toronto condo.
Even at the time, it seemed that this guy was gathering evidence, as though he was a private investigator of some sort. And so he was. Our mystery customer was a senior investigator for a law firm (of a sort) whose major, longterm customer was the Canadian Standards Association. My, what a coincidence! Our suspicions were confirmed when this guy emailed us to confirm the shipment of his order. He used his real email address. Not the alias he’d used for his original order. In the small things and the big ones, the CSA’s not the most professionally run outfit.
It seems that Oscar’s not running the most professional outfit either. His emails were solely focussed on financing the PS Knight legal defence, he voiced absolutely no concerns about engineering, testing or regulatory issues, he didn’t ask any questions about our prototype, nor any other aspect of the $120MM dollar project. He claimed that his firm would love to make a massive investment but “regretfully, we remain concerned” about PS Knight legal funding. Uh-huh.
The only strategy that CSA’s ever had in their fight against PS Knight Co has been to outspend us, to “bleed us financially” is how your correspondent put it to SunTV in 2013. By CSA’s logic, they should have bankrupted us already, but we’re still standing. And they’re increasingly frustrated by that. If they can’t cut our funding, they can’t kill us off. And they know they’re in really big trouble if the case goes to trial, and we’re close now, we’re very close to a full -and fully public- trial scheduled to start next spring.
But back to Oscar. Through connections (that we can’t talk about) to certain authorities (that we can’t talk about) we arranged an audit (that we can’t talk about) which generated a report (that we actually can talk about, but only a little, and only the tame bits). Here’s what it said.
“The person who has been making contact with [IREL Group] has created this name [Oscar Jensen] for this sole purpose along with the credentials he has provided for COPI.” The report continued; “The objective may be […] to recover information for a current investigation.” That, of course, is exactly what it looks like.
“The email [for Oscar Jensen] is dead from any of [our sources]. By ‘dead’, the email is no longer in use via Gmail. However, our [investigation] indicates that the email address is [also] no longer active.”
Moreover, “the email has not been utilized. It shows the IP address to [a server, and] we have not seen any use of the email since July 2014.” Well, July was the last contact Oscar made with IREL. “Additionally, there is no activity on TOR or DarkNet with this email address […] there is no historical trace found.”
In other words, the email for Oscar Jensen was created immediately prior to contacting IREL and terminated immediately thereafter.
“Based on the type of searches carried out, along with the information recovered, it is highly probable that this email was created for the purpose of deceiving the recipient to hand over certain information.”
Oscar Jensen is obviously somebody else, and that person’s interest has nothing to do with Dominion. What this person really wanted was information on how PS Knight Co was funding its legal defence against the CSA. That, my friends, is misrepresentation.
So, to all of those CSA staffers who are following RestoreCSA (and yes, we know there are a lot of you folks), our big question is whether you’re comfortable with this sort of conduct. What sort of people do you work for? How do you feel about all of this?
As for CSA’s big worry and Oscar’s big question, how PS Knight Co is funding its defence is really none of their business. Their big worry should be our intention at trial to shine as bright a light on CSA activities as we can arrange, and to expose the conduct of their leadership and their governance as publicly as possible. Maybe we’ll have another discussion with Oscar in court. So, are you looking forward to trial yet?