Coal Miner’s Lawsuit Shines Light On Greensill’s Unusual Methods

A U.S. lawsuit is shining a light on how Greensill Capital drifted from the pedestrian world of working capital finance to a more speculative business.

The suit, in which coal miner Bluestone Resources Inc. alleges it was defrauded by Greensill, says the U.K.-based firm would lump in loans based on actual receivables with those made against purchases that had not yet occurred. Bluestone said Greensill made specific predictions about who would buy the company’s coal in the future and for how much, and then would make loans against those forecasts as if the sales had happened.

Greensill’s collapse this month has made waves on multiple continents and raised questions about how much risk Lex Greensill’s startup was taking in its lending.

Coal Miner’s Lawsuit Shines Light On Greensill’s Unusual Methods

In its own court filings submitted as part of U.K. insolvency hearings, Greensill says it had three main businesses. Two of them -- accounts receivables financing and supply chain finance -- involved the purchasing of invoices at a discount in order to speed money to suppliers or to accelerate payments from customers. Those are scale businesses also done by many large banks at narrow margins.

Greensill called its third business “future accounts receivables finance,” and this represented a different proposition. In this approach, money is lent to a company before a sale has been made, based on the promise of future payments. Many of these loans found their way into Credit Suisse Group AG funds that were marketed to investors as some of the safest that the Zurich-based bank offered, Bloomberg reported this week.

Bluestone, owned by the family of West Virginia Governor Jim Justice II, had such a facility with Greensill, and in the lawsuit it explained how the loans worked. Greensill would show the miner a list of prospective buyers of its coal, and Bluestone would select those it thought were most likely, according to the lawsuit.

Greensill would predict the amounts and timing of future sales and lend money against those figures, Bluestone said. Some of the potential buyers had never bought from Bluestone in the past, but that didn’t stop Greensill from lending based on the assumption they would, according to the lawsuit. A Greensill spokesperson declined to comment.

“Greensill Capital -- from the start -- agreed to finance Bluestone based not on the existence and collectability of Bluestone’s then-existing receivables, but rather based on Bluestone’s long-term business prospects,” Bluestone said in the lawsuit.

German regulators closed Greensill’s banking unit this month after it couldn’t “provide evidence of the existence of receivables in its balance sheet.” Greensill said it was always transparent with auditors and regulators about its approach to classifying assets.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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