I spent the past four days at the posh Trump Hotel in Panama City, visiting a friend in the venture brokerage business. Panama is a safe, beautiful country with the friendliest people, and the Trump was a great hotel for the money ($179/).
As readers know, Panama is a haven for offshore money. This is especially true for international penny stock promoters — the men behind the curtains of the OTCBB, a market I know very little about, and avoid almost entirely.
In my hometown Vancouver, the venture brokerage business lives and dies with the mining markets. These days, it’s completely dead. But down here in Panama, the promoters are diversified and thriving, involved in all sorts of venture deals. These range from fashion to technology to teeth whitening. The place is rife with expat “rounders”: those earning a living from stock deals. Many of these rounders piggyback off spikes in trading volume for short-term wins, but some are after a nobler pursuit.
“The markets are musical chairs!” one trader told me while discussing the ethical climate of business on the bulletin boards. “What we do is follow the money. The TSXV is dead now and the OTC markets are hot, so that’s where we are. Some of these deals trade 200 million shares a day. When the TSXV comes back, we’ll be there… 2015 would be my bet for when that is.”
You probably wouldn’t want to be seen with a good number of the market characters in Panama, but the crew I met were definitely up to par. Having left cities like Vancouver and Toronto because of excessive regulation and taxation, this was the first investment firm your author has seen where the employees actually enjoy themselves!
I also quickly learned that Panama City is a hedonist’s paradise. There was a memorable casino night where I found myself playing $5 blackjack with a table full of escorts. At this establishment, the working women outnumbered the male guests 3:1. I invited them all to next year’s PDAC.
“It’s all pros doing business down here,” my friend told me, referring to the definition of stock market professionals as well as penny stock promoters. I extended this reference to the working girls as well.
In all, Panama is an important city in global finance, and the wild west of the investment business. If you need funds and can’t find them at home, this may be a good place to shop. Or, if you’re on the run and looking for some fun: Panama City makes Las Vegas blush.
Everything is out in the open down here, warts and all.
To Colombia now.