A corporate dispute like no other

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A corporate dispute like no other

Today was supposed to be the day of the first hearing by the Commission on Appointments on the nominee for Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. An interesting nominee who, on one hand, says what she does is what is right and she doesn’t care about being confirmed, and on the other has been doing media rounds and social media rounds and visiting legislators for purposes of... confirmation!

Oh... and going around town - to a Rotary meeting to say that Congressmen have been bribed P50 million to reject her only to backtrack and say she has no proof she was just told that and she didn’t mean to accuse anyone.

Ano daw?

But since the Senate had to reorganize the hearing has to be postponed so I have nothing to write about.

Or so I thought until I stumbled upon a lawsuit filed in Makati last Monday by Mercedes Zobel and three others against a Frenchman named Jean Philippe Henry, or JPH or JP for short.

Lawsuits (plural) actually, ranging from falsification of documents to syndicated estafa.

There’s even a qualified theft complaint filed with the National Bureau of Investigation!!

The company involved is EcoGlobal Inc., which started off as JPH Smelting in 2012. Along the way it changed its name, gave birth to a sister foundation, got investments from Mercedes Zobel and found itself in swank offices at Ayala Tower.

I should know. I’ve been to those offices. I’ve even met with JP when he accompanied Ms. Zobel to Rio Tuba two years ago. He was even plugging the idea of putting up a bamboo farm as wastewater treatment for the mine, which we didn’t need as we were always within DENR standards - attested to by no other than the DENR secretary-designate herself who has called Rio Tuba a “model”.

JP always talked bamboo. But I digress.

The falsification case is connected with EcoGlobal as a renewable energy and wastewater treatment company. Apparently JP needed funds to get the ball rolling, and Dedes Zobel provided him cash advances in exchange for 10% of the company.

But when EcoGlobal applied for a Renewable Energy Service Contract (RESC) from the Department of Energy, EcoGlobal needed to present itself not only as having a 60-40 Filipino-foreign ownership structure, but having as its Filipino partner someone solid.

Well, one solid name is Zobel. Far more solid than even, say, Lopez. The latter counts its money in billions of pesos, the former, in billions of dollars. Just ask Forbes...

Anyway, so apparently Mr. Henry or someone else had the bright idea of letting the DoE know that EcoGlobal was 60% owned by Mercedes Urquijo Zobel.

Eventually, the RESC was granted.

The problem with Dedes Zobel is this - rather than using the false claim that she owns 60% to wrest control of the company, she does the honorable thing of filing a falsification charge to say no, I only own 10%. But this in the process raises questions. If Zobel doesn’t own 60% and only 10% of EcoGlobal’s Filipino equity, who owns the 50% Filipino equity? Do these people have the capacity to actually own the 50%?

In short is the 60-40 ownership requirement imposed by the Constitution itself being violated here?

Interestingly yesterday afternoon there was a press conference at the DENR with the secretary-designate presenting the very same Jean Philippe Henry and his rehabilitation proposal for the Pasig River to the media and to the rest of the Philippines.

I didn’t get to see the press conference in full because I had important things to do, but I will try to find it on YouTube to see what the Madam had to say about JP and EcoGlobal.

And maybe about bamboo as well?

Last time I checked with the SEC, EcoGlobal no longer holds offices at Ayala Tower. And it has a new president in the person of Nicanor Perlas III, as per a General Information Sheet filing made by the company’s legal counsels on Feb. 24. Now that makes it even more interesting, yes?

Trust me. This case is in many ways one like no other.