In the classic definition, a financial pyramid is a fraud scheme based on paying high and quick returns to the first investors with the money of those who enter later.
The more new money comes in, the stronger the impression that this is a legitimate business, not a scam. When he stops coming in, confusion begins: first, restriction of principal’s withdrawal; then, restriction of interest withdrawal.
The herd effect completes the third stage: everyone tries to take the money at the same time and the scheme collapses.
In general terms, this is the route being followed by Canis Majoris, according to at least 33 lawsuits filed in the São Paulo Court by people who claim to have been harmed by the company.
Canis Majoris is a firm that offered to pay interest at 3% per month, backed by “international assets”.
Basic arithmetic: in a simple compound interest account, BRL 100,000 would become BRL 142,000 over the course of 12 months at 3% per month — a rate of return that falls into the “too good to be true” category for any regulated investment in the country.
For comparison purposes, between August 2020 and March 2021, during the pandemic, the Copom lowered interest rates to the lowest level in recent history, with the Selic at 2% per year. In the same period, the company was delivering 3% per month.
Neither Canis Majoris nor its controllers are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (CVM) — which is to say that the scheme operated outside the laws that govern the capital market.
In practice, managers are not subject to fiduciary responsibility rules, there is no supervision by regulatory bodies or any risk analysis matrix. In a regular investment, the investor has to fill out a form of suitability (definition of each person’s risk profile) and is informed in advance of the risk factors of each particular asset.
The stratagem had been working thanks to a loophole: the legal ties between the investor and the company are loan agreements; that is, they are individuals lending money to a company in private operations.
Investors had access to an application that only showed the balance of the “investment” with interest, without any details of the operation or information about the assets in which the money was supposedly invested.
In vernacular language: whoever puts in money is at his own risk.
“It’s like Treasury Direct, only from Russia”
On July 28, Mateus Davi Pinto Lúcio, who introduces himself as CEO of GR Discovery (a company belonging to the same economic group as Canis Majoris), distributed a 9 minutes and 32 seconds video on a Telegram channel announcing that he will not return the nobody’s money this year.
“Some funds that we have in the foreign market are sovereign debt funds and these sovereign debt funds are sometimes with the Russian government. It is as if it were the direct treasury, but it is with the Russian government”, says the owner of the company. , on video.
“Only the US, he banned [sic]through the swift, of the banking system, for Russia to pay its debtors [sic]. That is, Russia cannot pay its debts in bonds [títulos] for American funds, these funds cannot provide liquidity and I, who have investments in these funds, cannot redeem them. So, how do I keep the contract with you?”, he claimed.
“Do you see how one thing leads to another?” he asks.
Having made the generic preamble about “liquidity difficulties”, Mateus Davi announces that he will unilaterally change the contracts and that he will only release money again in a year.
In previous contracts, there was the possibility of dissolution, with the total redemption of the amounts within a minimum period of 30 days.
“In line with everything I’ve said so far, we’ll have to update the contract, even to avoid this problem ‘it’s in the contract’, ‘it’s not in the contract’, ‘you can do this’, ‘you can’t do that'” , speaks.
“In the current market, for you to find good things, to mine good things, it really takes a little sweat and generally does not have good liquidity. Therefore, there will no longer be the redemption of profitability, now there will only be partial or total redemption with a grace period a year, ok? You have to notify us a year in advance so that we can plan”, he said.
It is not yet possible to know how much money Canis Majoris has raised in recent years. The disclosure of the video with the breach of contract and the “grace” of one year for the withdrawal of money detonated a series of actions in the Justice of São Paulo.
On Friday (July 29), the day after the video, five lawsuits were presented asking for the blocking of more than R$ 1 million from the company’s accounts by customers.
Between Monday (August 1) and yesterday, another 28 lawsuits were filed in the São Paulo Court. In the 33 actions, customers ask for more than R$4 million back, but the number does not reflect the customer base or the total amount delivered to Canis Majoris.
In the main Telegram group to communicate with customers, there are 3,475 subscribers. In the last ten days, more than 300 people have reported that the company is no longer responding to withdrawal requests.
The “statement” in the application of a single client, who did not go to court, obtained by the column, indicates that he alone has R$ 1 million in the group’s possession.
A couple living in Vila Ester (northern São Paulo) transferred R$ 400,000 to Canis Majoris in 2019. In the lawsuit, the two say that the payments of the ‘investment’ profitability had been paid regularly until this year.
In May, the company began offering cash rewards for introducing new customers. A few weeks later, the first restriction on withdrawals began, reducing from R$100,000 per day to R$20,000.
“This practice […] resembles the financial pyramid scheme, it seems, note the similarity: model of progressive recruitment of other people, in an unsustainable way – the Defendant herself recognizes, after all, it even stipulated an indefinite waiting list to guarantee the ballast”, writes the couple’s defense.
“Shortly after this whole situation of prosperity and the search for new customers, the Defendant, arbitrarily and in the absence of the Plaintiffs, stipulated a new fee of two percent to be charged on top of orders, and subsequently changed the redemption limit partial to R$ 20 thousand a day”, describes the piece.
The couple obtained the judicial block of R$ 320 thousand – balance that they still have in the company. The blocked account did not belong to Canis Majoris, but to Topspin Soluções de Pagamentos Ltda, another firm of the same economic group.
The lawsuits also report that, before the announcement of the total block on withdrawals, Canis Majoris had already been imposing bureaucratic obstacles to not authorizing withdrawals, such as the requirement of written letters, copies of income tax returns and proof of the origin of funds.
Company declined to comment
In the ongoing lawsuits in the São Paulo Justice, Canis Majoris had not yet presented a defense until late Friday afternoon (5).
This columnist was at the Canis Majoris headquarters in a corporate building in the west of São Paulo on Friday afternoon. Nobody was there.
Then he went to another tower in the same complex, where the headquarters of GR Discovery, a company of the same economic group, is located.
When the company was told that there was a journalist in the lobby to talk about the lawsuits, the response was that someone would come down to answer.
Fifteen minutes later, a security guard approached the columnist and handed him a piece of paper with an email address — the only way to get in touch with the company.
An email was sent to the address indicated with the questions, but the company chose not to respond.