27 Firms and Individuals Charged With Fraudulent Promotion of Stocks
On Monday, the SEC announced enforcement actions against 27 individuals and entities behind various alleged stock promotion schemes that left investors with the impression they were reading independent, unbiased analyses on investing websites while writers were being secretly compensated for touting company stocks.
“If a company pays someone to publish or publicize articles about its stock, it must be disclosed to the investing public. These companies, promoters, and writers allegedly misled investors by disguising paid promotions as objective and independent analyses,” said Stephanie Avakian, Acting Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.
The SEC filed fraud charges against three public companies and seven stock promotion or communications firms as well as two company CEOs, six individuals at the firms, and nine writers. Of those charged, 17 have agreed to settlements that include disgorgement or penalties ranging from approximately $2,200 to nearly $3 million based on frequency and severity of their actions. The SEC’s litigation continues against 10 others.
On Monday, the SEC also released an investor alert warning that articles on an investment research website that appear to be an unbiased source of information or provide commentary on multiple stocks may be part of an undisclosed paid stock promotion. The SEC warns that investors should never make an investment based solely on information published on an investment research website.
“Stock promotion schemes may be conducted through investment research websites,” said Lori Schock, Director of the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy. “Investors looking for objective investment information should be aware that fraudsters may use these websites to profit at investors’ expense.”
The majority of these articles were shared on seekingalpha.com against its article submission polices.
Those charged include;
Lidingo Holdings, LLC, its owner Kamilla Bjorlin, Bjorlin’s associate Andrew Hodge, and hired writers Brian Nichols and Vincent Cassano.
CSIR Group, LLC, its owner Christine Petraglia, Petraglia’s associate Herina Ayot, and hired writers Thomas Meyer, and John Mylant.
Manish Singh, Lavos, LLC, Lion Biotechnologies, Inc., and ImmunoCellular Therapeutics, Ltd.
Galena Biopharma, Inc. and Mark J. Ahn
Edward Borrelli and Dunedin, Inc
Michael A. McCarthy, The DreamTeam Group, LLC, Mission Investor Relations, LLC, Quality Stocks LLC
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