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TOPIC: SEC's operation Shell Expel

SEC Suspends Trading of 61 Companies... 4 years 5 months ago #1673

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SEC Suspends Trading of 61 Companies Ripe for Fraud in Over-The-Counter Market

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
2013-97

Washington, D.C., June 3, 2013 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced the second-largest trading suspension in agency history as it continues its "Operation Shell Expel" crackdown against the manipulation of microcap shell companies that are ripe for fraud as they lay dormant in the over-the-counter market.



Additional Materials
List of the 61 Companies
Trading Suspension Order
Investor Bulletin: Trading Suspensions


The SEC suspended trading in the securities of 61 empty shell companies that are delinquent in their public filings and seemingly no longer in business based on an analysis by the SEC's Microcap Fraud Working Group. Since microcap companies are thinly-traded, once they become dormant they have great potential to be hijacked by fraudsters who falsely hype the stock to portray it as a thriving company and coerce investors into "pump-and-dump" schemes.

In this latest review of microcap stocks nationwide using enhanced intelligence technology in the Enforcement Division's Office of Market Intelligence, the SEC identified these clearly dormant shell companies in at least 17 states and one foreign country. By suspending trading in these companies, they're obligated to provide updated financial information to prove they're still operational, essentially rendering them useless to scam artists now that they are no longer flying under the radar.

"Stock manipulators crave empty shell companies that they can use to conduct pump-and-dump schemes and line their pockets with illicit trading profits by taking advantage of unsuspecting investors," said Andrew J. Ceresney, Co-Director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement. "We will aggressively suspend trading in such empty shells to take away a tool of their trade and help rid our markets of fraud."

Pump-and-dump schemes are among the most common types of fraud involving empty shell companies. Perpetrators will tout a thinly-traded microcap stock through false and misleading statements about the company to the marketplace. They purchase the stock at a low price before pumping the stock price higher by creating the appearance of market activity and drawing investor interest. They dump the stock for significant profit by selling it into the market at the higher price once investors have bought in.

Through its Operation Shell Expel initiative, the SEC suspended trading in a record 379 companies in a single day last year before they could be manipulated for fraudulent activity to harm investors.

"Once a company ceases its filings and investors no longer have current information about it, there is no good reason for that empty shell to remain exposed in our public markets," said Christopher Ehrman, Co-National Coordinator of the SEC's Microcap Fraud Working Group. "In this initiative, we are committed to identifying unacceptable risks in the marketplace and removing them to safeguard investors."

The SEC's Operation Shell Expel initiative has been led by Mr. Ehrman, Margaret Cain, Robert Bernstein, Jessica P. Regan, Leigh Barrett, and Megan Alcorn in the Office of Market Intelligence. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Economic Crimes Unit.

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www.sec.gov/news/press/2013/2013-97.htm
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SEC's operation Shell Expel 4 years 5 months ago #1672

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SEC Microcap Fraud-Fighting Initiative Expels 379 Dormant Shell Companies to Protect Investors From Potential Scams

Massive Trading Suspension Is Largest in Agency History

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
2012-91

Washington, D.C., May 14, 2012 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today suspended trading in the securities of 379 dormant companies before they could be hijacked by fraudsters and used to harm investors through reverse mergers or pump-and-dump schemes. The trading suspension marks the most companies ever suspended in a single day by the agency as it ramps up its crackdown against fraud involving microcap shell companies that are dormant and delinquent in their public disclosures.



Additional Materials
List of the 379 Companies
Trading Suspension Order
Investor Bulletin: Trading Suspensions


Microcap companies typically have limited assets and low-priced stock that trades in low volumes. An initiative tabbed Operation Shell-Expel by the SEC's Microcap Fraud Working Group utilized various agency resources including the enhanced intelligence technology of the Enforcement Division's Office of Market Intelligence to scrutinize microcap stocks in the markets nationwide and identify clearly dormant shell companies in 32 states and six foreign countries that were ripe for potential fraud.

"Empty shell companies are to stock manipulators and pump-and-dump schemers what guns are to bank robbers — the tools by which they ply their illegal trade," said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement. "This massive trading suspension unmasks these empty shell companies and deprives unscrupulous scam artists of the opportunity to profit at the expense of unsuspecting retail investors."

Thomas Sporkin, Director of the SEC's Office of Market Intelligence, added, "It's critical to assess risks to investors in the capital markets and, through strategic planning, develop ways to neutralize them. We were able to conduct a detailed review of the microcap issuers quoted in the over-the-counter market and cull out these high-risk shell companies."

The SEC's previously largest trading suspension was an order in September 2005 that involved 39 companies. The federal securities laws allow the SEC to suspend trading in any stock for up to 10 business days. Subject to certain exceptions and exemptions, once a company is suspended from trading, it cannot be quoted again until it provides updated information including accurate financial statements.

Pump-and-dump schemes are among the most common types of fraud involving microcap companies. Perpetrators will tout a thinly-traded microcap stock through false and misleading statements about the company to the marketplace. After purchasing low and pumping the stock price higher by creating the appearance of market activity, they dump the stock to make huge profits by selling it into the market at the higher price.

The existence of empty shell companies can be a financial boon to stock manipulators who will pay as much as $750,000 to assume control of the company in order to pump and dump the stock for illegal proceeds to the detriment of investors. But with this trading suspension's obligation to provide updated financial information, these shell companies have been rendered essentially worthless and useless to scam artists.
"This mass trading suspension is an effective and novel way for the SEC to neutralize potential threats to investors," said Chris Ehrman, Co-National Coordinator of the SEC's Microcap Fraud Working Group. "With the ability to leverage staff expertise throughout the agency's offices and divisions, the Working Group is uniquely positioned to take on risk-based matters like these and focus resources where they are needed most."
This SEC enforcement effort has been led by Mr. Ehrman, Robert Bernstein, Jessica P. Regan, Leigh Barrett, and Megan Alcorn in the Office of Market Intelligence along with Microcap Fraud Working Group staff from each of the SEC's regional offices: Tanya Beard, David Berman, Sharon Binger, Melissa Buckhalter-Honore, Lisa Cuifolo, Tracy Davis, Elisha Frank, Kevin Gershfeld, John Gibbons, Kurt Gottschall, Lucy Graetz, Jennifer Hieb, C.J. Kerstetter, Victoria Levin, Aaron Lipson, Michael Paley, Farolito Parco, Jonathan Scott, and Lauchlan Wash.
The SEC appreciates the assistance and cooperation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Economic Crimes Unit.

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www.sec.gov/news/press/2012/2012-91.htm
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