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Investment advisers: Whose side are they really on?

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Investment advisers: Whose side are they really on? | The Thaiger

PHUKET: In the world of providing financial planning and investment advisory services, just about everyone claims to be, or tries to pass themselves off as, an expert looking out for your best interest. But just who is an investment adviser really serving and more importantly, who is watching over him or her? For expatriates, asking such questions is important because once you leave your home country, the world of investment advice becomes rather murky and trustworthy counsel can be hard to come by.

Understanding fiduciary verses suitability standards

When I relocated to Thailand from the United States, I would receive phone calls about offshore investment products – just like you have probably received. The difference between the calls I would receive and the calls many of you have probably answered was that the callers wanted me to sell their offshore investment products targeted towards expatriates in exchange for commissions of as much as five per cent.

However, I cannot accept such commissions because I operate under the fiduciary standard rather than the suitability standard. Under the fiduciary standard, I am required to put my own interests below those of my clients, and I am required to provide information that is as accurate or complete as possible while avoiding conflicts of interest. And rather than earn commissions paid by investment firms for selling their financial products, I earn my income by charging a small annual fee that is the percentage of the amount of assets you have me managing – meaning I have an incentive to grow your investment account while avoiding both risky investment and excessive trading to generate myself commissions.

In contrast, most other investment advisers, especially those targeting expatriates, operate under the suitability standard where they are not required to give you the best and most objective advice possible and are largely being compensated by commission. These investment advisers are encouraged to trade you in and out of investments (in order to generate themselves commissions) and they are most likely receiving a commission when they sell you certain types of financial products – especially offshore investment products that come with high fees.

However, and no matter what standard investment advisers operate under, truly professional advisers should be willing to disclose to you any relationships, compensation, other incentives or potential conflicts of interests that could impact their ability to provide you with objective advice. In that way, you can evaluate whether their advice is truly independent and in your best interest or not.

Who’s watching your offshore investment adviser?

If you are wondering who regulates or licenses most offshore investment advisers who provide investment advice to expatriates, the answer is probably going to be nobody.

Of course, there will be some accountability for offshore investment advisers who are somehow affiliated with a large international insurance or brokerage firm or other financial institution, as who they are affiliated with will have an interest in protecting their reputation. However, unscrupulous expatriate investment advisers or firms targeting expatriates rather than locals can easily operate above and beyond any laws or regulations in Southeast Asian countries – meaning it’s the wild west and buyer beware for expatriates.

Given that’s the case, you need to ask potential investment advisers, or whoever cold calls you to sell you an offshore investment product, what licenses they hold and what jurisdictions they are accountable to. Moreover, don’t just take their word for it as the regulatory authorities in most countries should have websites where you can search for the names of individual licensed investment advisers or their firms.

In my case, I am licensed by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) who hold me accountable to stateside fiduciary standards and other regulations. I am also a Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) and I have passed the Series 65 Investment Adviser Law Exam.

Don Freeman is president of Freeman Capital Management, a Registered Investment Adviser with the US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), based in Phuket, Thailand. He has over 15 years experience and provides personal financial planning and wealth management to expatriates, specializing in UK and US pension transfers. Call 089-970 5795 or email: freemancapital@gmail.com.

— Don Freeman

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Thailand

Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military

Maya Taylor

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Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook

Facebook has confirmed the removal of 185 accounts run by the Thai military and allegedly involved in information-influencing. The social media giant says the accounts were deleted for engaging in what it calls, “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”. In total, 77 accounts, 72 pages, and 18 groups have been removed from the platform, in addition to 18 Instagram accounts. It’s the first time Facebook has taken such action against accounts linked to the Thai government.

The accounts were associated with the Thai military and were targeting people in the southern provinces, Facebook said its regular report on coordinated inauthentic behavior. The south of the country has been the scene of decades-long conflict, with insurgent groups in the majority-Muslim, Malay-speaking region calling for independence. To date, around 7,000 people have died in the ongoing struggle.

Facebook says the deleted accounts were most active last year and used both fake and real accounts to manage pages and groups, both openly military pages and pages that hid their links to the military. Some of the fake profiles pretended to be people from the southern provinces.

The report mentioned a post by the now-removed account named “comprehending the operation” in Thai. The page posted the logo for Amnesty International Thailand and wrote “The NGO never cares about ordinary citizens because they have no role in society. Normal people are not famous. Any case is not big news. They are not worth the investment of foreigners so they will not do anything to help. This is why we don’t see anything from the NGO.”

Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military | News by The Thaiger

Image overlay translates to “The NGO never cares about ordinary citizens because they have no role nor money.”

On another now-removed account, named “truth about my home Pattani” in Thai, a post said “Muslim leader declares southern border is a peace zone. The southern separatists started a movement by spreading the idea that Thailand is under control by different believers so that people would come and fight for their religion. This was declared that the action clearly violates Islam faith.”

Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military | News by The Thaiger

Image overlay translates to “Southern border is not Jihad zone.”

When contacted by Reuters, the military had no comment on the removal of the Facebook accounts, with a spokesman saying the organisation does not comment outside of official press conferences.

The head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook, Nathaniel Gleicher, has confirmed the reasons behind the platform’s decision.

“This is the first time that we’ve attributed one of our takedowns to links to the Thai military. We found clear links between this operation and the Internal Security Operations Command. We can see that all of these accounts and groups are tied together as part of this operation.”

He adds that the accounts had spent around US$350 on advertising on both Facebook and Instagram. One or more of the pages had about 700,000 followers and at least one of the groups had 100,000 members. Gleicher says the accounts were removed because of their misleading behaviour and not because of the content being posted. The content included support for the military and the monarchy, with allegations of violence and criticism of insurgent groups in the south.

It’s not the first time accounts linked to the Thai military have been removed by a social media platform. In October, Twitter removed 926 accounts it says had links to the army and posted pro-military and pro-government content. The Thai army has denied any involvement with the accounts in question. In November, Twitter also suspended an account posting pro-monarchy content that was found to have links to the palace and to thousands of other accounts posting similar content.

To read the February 2021 Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Report, click HERE.

SOURCES: Reuters| Facebook

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Central Thailand

Airline executive arrested for failure to pay wages of 150 workers

Maya Taylor

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Airline executive arrested for failure to pay wages of 150 workers | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikimedia

An airline executive has been arrested in the central province of Samut Songkhram, after complaints from150 employees that they had not been paid. Chawengsak Noiprasan, who had a court warrant issued against him in October, was taken to Don Muang police station from a property in the Bang Khan Take sub-district. He is a board member of Siam Air Transport.

The airline began operations in October 2014 with services out of Don Mueang to Hong Kong, using 2 Boeing 737-300s. 2 Boeing 737-800s were added to its fleet in late 2015. It expanded by adding Zhengzhou and Guangzhou in China to its network in early 2015. In late 2015, the airline launched flights to Macau and Singapore. In 2017, the airline ceased all operations.

But according to an article in the Bangkok Post, the carrier operates a number of scheduled and charter flights from Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport. The Post reports that, as Chawengsak signs the company’s legal paperwork, all legal matters concerning the airline fall to him.

The Metropolitan Police Bureau says the executive has admitted to ignoring a 30 day notice issued by the labour inspector and ordering the payment of wages to 150 workers. It’s understood he is also wanted in relation to 7 other cases.

The authorities sought Chawengsak’s arrest following complaints from employees who say they haven’t received their wages for 2 months. It’s understood the airline had previously deferred salary payments for over 8 months. 150 workers filed an official complaint with Don Mueang police and also approached media outlets, asking them to pressure the airline into paying the money owed.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Business

Governments & old media versus social media – who will win? | VIDEO

The Thaiger

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Governments & old media versus social media – who will win? | VIDEO | The Thaiger

We look at the recent changes made by the Australian and Indian governments to except control over the world’s biggest social media platforms. India has issued strict new rules for Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms just weeks after the Indian government attempted to pressure Twitter to take down social media accounts it deemed, well, anti social. There is now an open battle between the rise of social media platforms and the governments and ‘old’ media that have been able to maintain a certain level of control over the ‘message’ for the last century. Who will win?

The rules require any social media company to create three roles within India… a “compliance officer” who ensures they follow local laws; a “grievance officer” who addresses complaints from Indian social media users; and a “contact person” who can actually be contacted by lawyers and other aggrieved Indian parties… 24/7.

The democratisation of the news model, with social media as its catalyst, will continue to baffle traditional media and governments who used to enjoy a level of control over what stories get told. The battles of Google and Facebook, with the governments of India and Australia will be followed in plenty of other countries as well.

At the root of all discussions will be the difference between what governments THINK social media is all about and the reality about how quickly the media landscape has changed. You’ll get to read about it first, on a social media platform… probably on the screen you’re watching this news story right now.

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