Shares sold too cheap?

Archie decided to sell his shares in a construction company. Archie instructed his share registry to sell the shares at a minimum price of $3 per share.

The next day, the registry sold the shares at $3 per share.

Archie complained to FSCL that the registry hadn’t carried out his instructions properly, because the share price traded up to $5.50 on the day the registry sold the shares.

 

Dispute

Archie said the registry should have obtained the highest price possible, with the minimum price of $3 being a last resort.

The registry said they would have sold the shares at a higher market price than the minimum price if circumstances permitted, but there was no guarantee they could do so. Obtaining a higher marker price depended on the availability of buyers, the size of the share parcel, and the risk of the share price decreasing again.  The registry said Archie would have need to go to a financial adviser if he wanted to ‘play the market’ when selling the shares.

At the beginning of our process, the registry was frustrated Archie’s complaint was escalated to FSCL because they strongly believed it lacked merit. The registry wanted us to reject Archie’s complaint as soon as possible.

We explained to the registry that we had to review all complaints that came to us with a fresh, independent pair of eyes and without any preconceived view. We also explained that while we encourage consumers whose complaints lack merit to discontinue their complaints, it’s ultimately up to the consumer as to what point in our process they decide to end their complaint. 

 

Review

We reviewed Archie’s complaint and the information provided by the registry.

The registry provided examples of other transactions they had processed for sales of the same shares, where they had been able to obtain a higher sale price than the minimum stipulated by the seller. From these, we were persuaded the registry had carried out Archie’s instructions properly and would have sold the shares at a higher market price if circumstances permitted.

We also agreed with the registry that Archie did not engage their services to ‘play the market’ – they were engaged to sell the shares at a market price, above $3 if possible. They had correctly followed Archie’s instruction.

We agreed with Archie that the wording of the share sale form could have been clearer. For the average consumer, we could see how stipulating a ‘minimum price’ could give the expectation that the shares would be sold at a higher price if at all possible. However, the terms and conditions on the second page of the share sale form did say the registry was not liable for the shares not being sold at a certain price, including if the share price increased at the end of the trading day.

 

Resolution

Archie accepted our views and agreed to discontinue his complaint.

 

Insights for participants

At the end of our process, the registry accepted our recommendation to clarify the wording of their share sale form to avoid similar issues in future.

Through Archie’s complaint, the registry learnt the value of FSCL process in resolving the complaint and identifying service areas which could be improved to avoid future complaints.

 

 

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