By Hubert Walker for CoinWeek....
Visitors to the website of Merit Gold and Silver, a Santa Monica, California-based bullion and precious metals dealer, have seen a message stating that, as of August 5, the company is “no longer accepting bullion orders.”
There is no explanation on the website why the company has stopped taking orders. Customers are urged to call for details. A 1-800 number is prominently displayed in the upper right corner.
When called and asked about the declaration, an associate said that the company is beginning a transfer of ownership, and that the sale of bullion is prohibited while this process takes place. The associate also said that the dealership is still allowed to sell what it currently has in stock. As of August 8, inventory consisted of three silver Lunar Britannia coins, according to the associate.
Returning to the website, no such product listing can be found, however there is a pop-up advertising Britannia coins made from silver recovered from the wreckage of the SS Gairsoppa. The only content on each product category page is a statement saying that Merit Gold is accepting limited precious metals orders as of August 6 and to call for more details.
The associate did not say who was assuming new ownership.
A check of the company’s social media reveals no additional information. Merit Gold’s Facebook account is still active, but compared to the content and frequency of posts from the end of July and early August, activity has slowed. The last tweet from Merit Gold’s twitter account is dated August 4.
At least one person claiming to be a customer posted to the company’s Facebook timeline on August 7 to ask about the “shutdown”. The customer stated that they had had good experiences buying from the dealership and express their surprise at this “sudden” turn of events.
Earlier this year, on February 13, the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Seacoast Coin, Inc., which does business as Merit Gold and Silver. The privately-held company is headed by Peter M. Epstein and Michael J. Getlin.
UPDATE: On August 13, Adam Radinsky, Head of the Consumer Protection Unit of the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office, told CoinWeek that Merit Gold had entered into an assignment for the benefit of creditors. An assignment for the benefit of creditors is an alternative to bankruptcy, and it is possible for a business to continue to operate as a going concern during and after the process.
On August 15, I called Merit Gold and Silver to confirm. The associate I spoke with told me that the business is closing its doors. Messages left with Merit Gold Owner Peter Epstein and CEO Michael Getlin went unanswered.