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Credit Suisse accepted suspicious invoices for $140mn Greensill loan

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Credit Suisse provided an emergency $140mn loan to Greensill Capital based partly on invoices to companies who deny ever doing the business stated on the documents.

The Swiss bank provided the loan in October 2020, less than five months before the collapse of Greensill, a supply chain finance firm that counted former UK prime minister David Cameron as a senior adviser.

Invoices issued by metals magnate Sanjeev Gupta’s Liberty Commodities and sold to Greensill formed part of the collateral for the loan, according to documents seen by the Financial Times and people familiar with the transaction. Yet several of the parties named on the invoices have told the FT they did no business with Liberty.

The apparent failure to spot that suspicious invoices were pledged as collateral casts fresh light on risk management failures at Credit Suisse.

It also raises new questions over the practices at Greensill and Liberty. The commodities company is part of Gupta’s GFG Alliance, which is being probed by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office and French police over suspected fraud and money laundering. GFG has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Credit Suisse’s loan had a clause dictating that the collateral value had to be equal to or greater than the $140mn borrowed. The terms of the debt agreement only allowed invoices on Greensill’s balance sheet to count towards this tally if the party named on the bill was investment-grade rated.

In the days leading up to Greensill’s collapse, Credit Suisse produced a schedule of receivables dated February 2021, detailing $99mn of these eligible invoices naming 12 different companies.

The FT has seen invoices that Liberty Commodities sold to Greensill naming seven of these same companies. Four of them — Cargill, Mitsui Bussan Metals, Toyota Tsusho Asia Pacific and Itochu Singapore — told the FT they had no record of any transactions with Liberty Commodities. The others declined to comment or could not be reached.

Itochu added that it was contacted by Greensill’s administrator Grant Thornton to verify one of the Liberty Commodities invoices in March 2021. The Japanese trading house said it responded that it had no record of the transaction at its Singaporean subsidiary and that it also “checked more widely with other local subsidiaries within the region and affiliated companies but there was no business transaction”.

Credit Suisse accepted the bills as collateral even after one of its biggest clients — Swiss commodities trader Trafigura — had warned the bank that Liberty Commodities appeared to have raised financing through Greensill using a suspicious invoice.

The FT last year revealed that Credit Suisse’s Greensill-linked supply chain finance funds contained suspect invoices from Liberty Commodities. It has not been reported previously that the lender’s investment banking division accepted the same bills as collateral for a corporate loan it made to Greensill.

Despite the suspicious collateral, the $140mn loan has since been repaid because Credit Suisse had first-ranking security on other Greensill assets, including $50mn of cash.

“Credit Suisse Asset Management has continued to work tirelessly on the recovery of cash for investors in the supply chain finance funds,” Credit Suisse said. “The recovery of the bridge loan made to Greensill Capital, in full, plus interest owed, is further evidence of our absolute determination to seek recourse from this matter wherever we can.”

GFG Alliance said: “Greensill’s facility expressly permitted Prospective Receivables.” The term refers to a practice whereby Greensill allowed some businesses to borrow money against hypothetical future invoices.

However, a document Credit Suisse sent to investors last year stated that Liberty Commodities did not have a “future receivables” facility with Greensill, meaning that financing could only be raised against existing invoices.

The invoices the FT has seen all refer to sales of nickel supposedly carried out already, including precise details of when and where the metal was delivered.

Greensill’s administrator last year disclosed that when the firm collapsed $355mn of the $490mn receivables on its balance sheet were “amounts owed by GFG company obligors”.

Greensill’s administrator Grant Thornton declined to comment.

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