Professionalism/Michael de Guzman and the Bre-X Scandal

Professionalism/Michael de Guzman and the Bre-X Scandal


This chapter explores the 1997 Bre-X gold mining fraud. We look at the enabling forces across the scandal and analyze Michael De Guzman’s particular cover-up technique. Members embody Bre-X administration, buyers, the Indonesian Authorities, Freeport-McMoRan, Busang villagers and the Ontario Securities Fee. We focus on evident resolution traps which can be relevant throughout industries and professionals.

Scandal that shook the Gold Mining trade

Bre-X mine positioned on Borneo

Staff Formation[edit]

In 1988, David Walsh based Bre-X Minerals Ltd out of his basement in Calgary, Canada.[1] Initially centered on diamond expeditions within the Northwest Territories, Bre-X discovered little success in its first years of operations. After a number of failed expeditions, Walsh filed for private chapter in 1991.[2] To “put some romance into Bre-X,” Walsh shifted his firm’s focus to overseas gold expeditions. He reached out to John Felderhof, a geologist well-known for locating the most important gold mine in Papua New Guinea, and collectively they focused the jungles of Indonesia.[3] Felderhof was named Common Supervisor of Bre-X’s Indonesian exploration and introduced in Michael De Guzman, a Filipino geologist and long-time buddy. Following De Guzman’s and Felderhof’s steering, Walsh bought land in Busang on the island of Borneo.[4]

Lehman Brothers endorsed Bre-X

Hanging Gold[edit]

Though over twelve mining corporations labeled the land as “nugatory”, De Guzman and Felderhof had been assured they might strike gold. This optimism pale, nevertheless, after failing on their first two makes an attempt. “We virtually closed the property,” stated De Guzman, claiming that Felderhof stated “shut the property” simply earlier than their preliminary hit.[2] After lastly placing gold in 1995, Bre-X estimated over 30 million ounces of gold on the property.[1] De Guzman and Felderhof continued to survey the land, and their estimates rose with every newly found pattern.[5] By 1997, Bre-X’s estimate eclipsed 71 million ounces of gold.[4] Felderhof believed the valuations may ultimately exceed 200 million ounces, greater than the Californian gold rush. When requested in regards to the discover, Walsh stated “All of us discover it onerous to imagine that we’re chargeable for the most important gold discovery in all probability within the historical past of the world.”[2]

Inventory Value Soars[edit]

As phrase of the invention unfold, buyers flocked to Bre-X. J.P. Morgan made public statements endorsing the Busang website and Lehman Brothers labeled it “the gold discovery of the century.”[1] In 1996, Walsh started buying and selling the as soon as penny-stock on the Toronto Inventory Change. The inventory worth soared from 30 cents to $170 in simply two years.[6] Native buyers noticed fast features, with one Canadian girl claiming to know “about 5 new millionaires.”[7]

Indonesian President Suharto performed energetic position in negotiation

Indonesian Authorities Intervention[edit]

As gold estimates soared, the Indonesian authorities and President Suharto intervened.[4] Fearful that Bre-X lacked the assets essential to deal with the rising gold mine, President Suharto compelled Bre-X to enter a partnership with a bigger gold mining firm. [1] Suharto additionally didn’t understand that his nation was sitting on such a big reserve of gold and needed to make it possible for he had a chunk of the pie. By the tip of negotiations, Bre-X held 45% of the land, the Indonesian authorities owned 40% and Freeport-McMoRan claimed the remaining 15%.[8]


Six weeks after closing the deal, Freeport-McMoRan started due diligence testing in Busang by finishing core holes 1-2m away from the 4 Bre-X drill-holes that contained the very best gold grades. After failing to strike gold in any of those holes, Freeport requested to fulfill with De Guzman to debate their findings. On his solution to the assembly, De Guzman dedicated suicide, leaping out of his helicopter.[9] As information unfold of De Guzman’s dying, fearful buyers offered over 9 million Bre-X shares.[10] Walsh urged buyers to disregard the rumors and launched an impartial investigation.[11] To Walsh’s dismay, the investigation decided that “the estimated dimension of the Busang reserve was primarily based on falsified information.”[12] Bre-X misplaced $583 million {dollars} because the inventory fell 80 %, crashing the Toronto Inventory Change’s computerized buying and selling system.[13] In November of 1997, Bre-X filed for chapter.[14]

Salted Samples[edit]

Within the aftermath of the scandal, Strathcona Mineral Companies performed an impartial audit of Bre-X. They found that Bre-X had tampered with the core samples, including gold from an exterior supply.[1] Of their report, they commented on the historic significance of the tampering, astounded by the size, scale and accuracy of the tampering operation.[15] The report concluded {that a} member of the Bre-X group more than likely engaged in “salting”, sprinkling gold onto samples earlier than delivery them to the lab for testing.[1] Interviews with on-site employees revealed suspect operational procedures. The testing labs had been “very downstream” from the mining facility, giving De Guzman privateness to arrange the samples.[16] Staff reported De Guzman leaving open baggage of rock samples in his workplace and infrequently “mix[ing] pulverized rock samples with reddish, white and gold-colored powders” into the samples.[1] Some journalists speculate that preliminary salting was merely to increase the mission, however the salting continued after the large estimates returned from the lab.[5]

De Guzman used Volcanic Pool Idea to rationalize unorthodox procedures

Volcanic Pool Idea[edit]

Previous to becoming a member of the Bre-X operation, De Guzman developed the “Volcanic Pool Idea.” De Guzman believed that when a volcano “collapse[s] again onto itself,” gold is created from the “large buildup of warmth and strain.” [2] The “Volcanic Pool Idea” motivated Bre-X’s choice of Busang and justified their unorthodox mining practices. Busang’s proximity to volcanoes made it the best location to check De Guzman’s life work and probably show his Idea. Underneath typical mining situations, after extracting a core pattern from the bottom, half is distributed to the lab for testing and the opposite half is saved for future audits.[1] De Guzman argued that volcanic strain causes a non-uniform distribution of gold throughout the core pattern. Because of this, the complete pattern should be examined to precisely measure the gold content material.[17] This process resulted in minimal core pattern storage, stopping future auditors from precisely assessing the valuations. [5]

Traps in Choice Making[edit]

De Guzman surrounded himself with younger geologists that not too long ago graduated from faculty. Their inexperience resulted in minimal questioning of administration, regardless of De Guzman’s unorthodox practices. An observer likened the Bre-X group to “the geological equal of the batboys for the World Champion Yankees.” Whereas they had been excited to partake within the gold rush, their inexperience restricted their position within the operation.[2] This restricted position allowed De Guzman’s techniques to go unchecked.

Through the due diligence course of, a number of buyers questioned Bre-X’s testing of the complete core pattern. Felderhof responded by asserting De Guzman’s experience, arguing he does “not have time to coach them on the assorted grade dedication strategies for gold generally used on a worldwide foundation within the mining trade.”[1] As a result of most buyers lacked expertise within the mining trade, many blindly trusted the “Volcanic Pool Idea” justification, resulting in excessive valuations and minimal additional questioning.[5]

Normalization deviance has additionally plagued buyers within the mining trade. Buyers have fallen for related scandals up to now together with a Uranium scandal in Utah in 1954, a Nickel scandal in Australia in 1969 and most not too long ago, a gold mining scandal in China in 2007. Overconfident market expectations brought about the inventory costs of those corporations to soar.[18] Though skepticism of reported findings will increase after a scandal like Bre-X is uncovered, resolution fatigue ultimately settles in and buyers fall for related traps over time.


On the peak of Bre-X’s valuations, many native villagers moved their households to Busang. Very similar to the gold rush of California, most of those villagers left the whole lot behind in hope of discovering gold. Bre-X inspired settlement, electrifying native villages and constructing a brand new church and kindergarten.[2] Native villagers have remained within the space in hopes of placing gold. Mentioned one villager who pans for gold every day, “There may be gold right here. If there may be somebody who was to proceed the Busang mission, please come to Indonesia.”[19]

Canadian Authorities elevated rules, passing NI 43-101

No Legal Costs[edit]

Many buyers accused Walsh and Felderhof of colluding with De Guzman, citing cases of suspicious conduct. When Bre-X filed for the U.S. Securities and Change Fee, they introduced they “ready, reviewed or verified [their findings] with impartial mining consultants,” however did not disclose that the samples had been at all times drawn and managed by Bre-X. Felderhof and Walsh additionally raised suspicion once they every offered $25 million in Bre-X inventory previous to De Guzman’s suicide. The courts dominated in favor of Felderhof and Walsh, claiming they “acted with their regular professionalism, which by its very nature bestows credibility.”[16] The Decide additional believed “Felderhof has confirmed that he took all cheap care.”[3] The Nasdaq additionally launched a press release claiming that Bre-X handed the SEC’s submitting and monetary necessities.[16]

New Rules[edit]

A spokesperson for Nesbitt Burns, an funding firm that endorsed Bre-X, argued below the present reglatory local weather, “our analysts depend on publicly out there info…our consultants should not consultants in uncovering fraud.” He additional claimed, “our trade and our shoppers have been victimized.” Within the late 1990s, Canadian gold mining corporations weren’t responsible for the accuracy of their gold estimates. As a result of Bre-X didn’t publicly provide their shares, standardized due diligence was not required.[16] The Ontario Securities Fee handed the NI 43-101 in response to the Bre-X scandal, “prohibit[ing] deceptive disclosure” and requiring the “involvement of a certified particular person.”[20]

Conspiracy Theories[edit]

A number of conspiracy theories have surfaced across the Bre-X scandal. Many individuals, together with the physician who carried out De Guzman’s post-mortem, imagine De Guzman faked his suicide and continues to be alive immediately.[6] Staff on website the day Guzman disappeared claimed he was carrying massive duffel baggage of money. Some say he ran to South America with just a few hundred thousand {dollars}, whereas others say it was upwards of a whole bunch of tens of millions. With this sum of money he may have bribed his solution to freedom.[21] Genie De Guzman, his widowed spouse, fueled the controversy when she claimed she mysteriously obtained a cost of $25,000 from Brazil.[22] One other impartial investigation discovered that De Guzman was pushed from the helicopter and served because the “fall man” for the complete firm.[6] It is usually potential that De Guzman orchestrated the complete scandal, growing his “Volcanic Pool Idea” after which utilizing it to persuade profitable prospectors who had fallen on tough occasions to take a position with out questioning.

Michael De Guzman satisfied skilled buyers, skilled auditors and even Bre-X administration {that a} dry mine was price over $6 billion. In David Walsh’s phrases, “4 and a half years of onerous work and the pot on the finish of the rainbow is a bucket of slop.”[3] De Guzman leveraged his perceived experience to justify suspect conduct and created a piece setting the place he may function unchecked. These techniques to garner belief and seize management are illustrated throughout circumstances on ethics. It’s a skilled’s duty to determine these purple flags and thwart the fraud earlier than it impacts hundreds of stakeholders. We centered totally on the specifics of the Bre-X scandal on this chapter and additional evaluation on the broader implications would strengthen this case examine. A more in-depth take a look at Freeport-McMoRan or the Indonesian Authorities as a stakeholder would enhance this chapter as nicely.

  1. abcdefghi Lane McNamara, et al. v. Bre-X Minerals Ltd. (1997, July) Civil Motion No. 597CV159. United States District Courtroom for the Jap District of Texas. Retrieved Might eighth from
  2. abcdef Behar, R. (1997, June 9) Jungle Fever: The Bre-X Saga is the Best Gold Rip-off Ever. However to Perceive the Enormity of the Fraud, You Needed to Be There. Our Man in Borneo Tells his Story. Retrieved Might eighth from
  3. abc Stephenson, A. and Seskus, T. (2017, January 26) Behind ‘Gold’: The actual story of Bre-X proves life is stranger than fiction. Retrieved Might eighth from
  4. abc R. v. Felderhof (2007, July 31) Ontario Courtroom of Justice. Retrieved Might eighth from
  5. abcd Henchek, C. (1998 June) Bre-X: The Lure of False Gold. Engineering and Mining Journal.
  6. abc Dolphin, R. (1996, March 3) Inventory of the century: Buyers hit jackpot with gold mining. Retrieved Might eighth from
  7. Crowe, Ok. (1996, March 11) Gold fever sweeps buyers after Bre-X discovery. Retrieved Might eighth from
  8. McNamara v. Bre-X Minerals Ltd., 197 F. Supp. 2nd 622 (2001, March 30) U.S. District Courtroom for the Jap District of Texas. Retrieved Might eighth from
  9. Wilton, S. (2007, Might 26) The thriller of Michael de Guzman. Retrieved Might eighth from
  10. Calgary Herald and Herald wire companies (1997, March 22) Nervous buyers pound Bre-X shares. Retrieved Might eighth from
  11. Ewart, S. (1997, March 20) Bre-X geologist plunges to his dying from helicopter in Borneo. Retrieved Might eighth from
  12. Bre-X Minerals LTD. (1997, Might 4) Information Launch. Retrieved Might eighth from
  13. CNN Cash. (1997, Might 5) No gold at Bre-X website. Retrieved Might eighth from
  14. Deloitte & Touche Inc. (1997, November 5) Bre-X Minerals LTD., In Chapter. Retrieved Might eighth from
  15. Historica Canada. (1997) Bre-X Collapses. Retrieved Might eighth from
  16. abcd Scheider, H. (1997, Might 18) A Lode of Lies: How Bre-X Fooled Everybody. Retrieved Might eighth, 2017 from
  17. Lawrence, M. (1998, March 26) Skilled Witness Deposition in Lane McNamara, et al. v. Bre-X Minerals Ltd. Retrieved Might eighth from
  18. Walker, S.(2016, October 5) Exposing Bubbles, Shysters and Out-and-out Scams. Retrieved Might eighth from
  19. Wilton, S. (2007, Might 29) Again to Busang. Retrieved Might eighth from
  20. Ontario Securities Commision (2008, February 8) Mineral Challenge Disclosure Requirements: Understanding NI 43-101. Retrieved Might eighth from
  21. Historica Candanada (2005) Bre-X Geologist Mike de Guzman Rumoured to be Alive. Retrieved Might ninth from
  22. Canadian Press (2005, Might 25) De Guzman Lives? Singapore Report Cites Cheque from Fallen Bre-X Geologist. Retrieved Might eighth from

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