SCAM – “Brokers” and ‘Up Front Fees’ for Venture Capital

This is a guest column by Greg George, a professional due diligence expert that I use as a resource. There are a huge number of people looking for financing due to the current lending climate and the bad guys know it. Here’s what one expert has to say.

Yours, Ike

Risk and Threat Management – Presented by Greg George

Posted in Awareness by gtiadvisors on January 7, 2010

I’ve been monitoring what appears to be the longest discussion string in LinkedIn history (up to 223 comments now) going on at the Private Equity and Venture Capital Group.

The discussion question is: What do you think about ‘up front’ fees..? (for funding a deal)

There has been very good information posted, there has been very bad information posted, smart ass comments and bullying here and there (yes, very professional), those postulating their own ‘expertise’ – “…this is how good I am, I’ve done these $20mm+ deals, and…” etc etc (never tout yourself as an expert, it diminishes your credibility – If you’re worth the recognition, others will do that for you), and I’ve even seen a few spamming in trying to sell their services/deals – astonishing…

A few thoughts on ‘brokers’ and other middle men/women requiring fees ‘up front’ – usually under the guise of due diligence work that needs to be done, we have to better position your business plan and pro-forma’s, along with all the assurances and window dressings of how they will get your deal funded – these are great sales people, and most are frauds.

You’ll never get to a closing, they will stall and stall and stall… for months – and you may never see the ‘up front’ fees you gave them again.
If you think an alternative financing or equity funding program might be the right deal for you, at minimum, at least find out:

•Who these people really are
•Talk to several past success deal client references they ’should’ provide
•Who do they represent as potential investors on your behalf
•What are the sources of funds (don’t get sucked in to a money laundering or tax evasion racket)
See if the person and firm are even licensed in the U.S: do a FINRA broker check.

FSA (UK) – also provides alert lists of EU and other international players in the finance and equity funding game not registered or vetted.

Another growing dimension of these economic times, new groups and angel investors charging ‘up front’ fees just to hear your pitch – a good example of what’s going on with these guys see: VentureHype (a great resource for many VC, Angel, start-up and investing topics) – the article also links to a well done ‘rant’ by Jason Calacanis on these practices.

Bottom line 1: If you do not have the expertise and require consulting help to get your business plan, pro-forma’s, your perfect 7-slide ppt for your pitch, and everything else up to speed (and rehearsed many times) to be received as an attractive, fund-able opportunity – set a budget, hire a competent firm or person and pay them to help you accomplish this.

Consulting services to get this right the first time, has nothing to do with capital raise.

Bottom line 2: Assume any “up front ‘broker’ fees” to arrange funding are frauds. Period (I’ve been dealing with these kind of people for a long time).

$4mm in up front fee frauds have come across my desk the past many months, especially since the real financial crash began to fall in September, 2008. In some cases we have been able to get the “up front fees” back on behalf of clients, even those fee’s that were wired offshore before the ink on the check was dry. We continue to work on others (leveraging RICO is a wonderful thing).

I have participated as an advisor to investors and as a decision panel member riding shotgun over the due diligence drill on companies seeking funding… during the past 12 months, the several organizations, equity firms, angels, family offices and high net worth individuals I’ve worked with have funded more than $30mm in start-ups, acquisitions and expansions – not one dime of any ‘up front fee’ was involved.


Greg George is Managing Partner of GTI Advisors; Threat Management Practice Group. A senior advisor to executives, business owners, private equity investors, M&A teams and transaction lawyers, Greg provides guidance on matters of enhanced due diligence research, threat analysis, security issues, actionable intelligence, fraud avoidance, and corporate espionage realities. For further information please visit or contact Greg directly:

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