Articles Posted in Penny Stocks

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The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has filed charges Cardinal Energy Group, Inc. (“Cardinal”), a Texas-based oil and gas company, as well as and its former CEO Timothy W. Crawford (“Crawford”).  The SEC charges defendants with fraudulently concealing the loss of Cardinal’s major source of revenue.

Oil Drilling Rigs
In mid-2017, Cardinal reportedly lost control of its interest in two oil-and-gas leases that accounted for nearly all (approximately 90%) of the company’s revenue, according to the SEC’s complaint.  However, according to the SEC complaint, instead of revealing these issues, Cardinal and Crawford filed quarterly reports with the SEC that misrepresented to investors that the leases were still expected to be part of the company’s future business plans.

During this period, while allegedly concealing the setback to the business, Cardinal also allegedly raised additional money from investors, misreported stock ownership, and failed to make the required disclosures that its Crawford had sold millions of shares of Cardinal stock.

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stock market chartInvestors in speculative microcap and nanocap securities may have arbitration claims to be pursued before FINRA, in the event that the recommendation to invest lacked a reasonable basis, or if the nature of the investment, including its risk components, was misrepresented to the investor.  Both FINRA and the SEC have issued ample guidance with regard to the numerous risks associated with investing in speculative microcap (or “penny”) stocks, including the potential for fraudulent schemes and market manipulation due to the lack of public information concerning the companies’ underlying business and management, as well as verifiable financials.

In certain instances, broker-dealers who transact business in the penny stock arena may expose themselves to regulatory scrutiny and related liability.  For example, Aegis Capital Corp. (“Aegis”) (CRD# 15007) has come under considerable regulatory scrutiny by both the SEC and FINRA with respect to its activities concerning low-priced securities transactions.  Formed in 1984 and headquartered in New York, New York, Aegis is a mid-sized, full service retail and institutional broker-dealer.  As of March 2017, Aegis employed approximately 415 brokers in its sixteen branches, with the bulk of its workforce centered in New York City and Melville, NY.

According to FINRA BrokerCheck, Aegis’ regulatory history includes a total of thirty (30) disclosure events, a number of which involve penny stocks.  For instance, in August 2015, Aegis entered into a settlement with FINRA, pursuant to which the broker-dealer agreed to pay $950,000 in sanctions over allegations of improper sales of unregistered shares of penny stocks, as well as certain AML violations.  In connection with that regulatory event, two of Aegis’ compliance officers were suspended for 30 and 60 days, and ordered to pay fines of $5,000 and $10,000, respectively.  On March 28, 2018, the SEC imposed a cease-and-desist order (“Order”) against Aegis for its alleged supervisory failures concerning penny stocks.  Further, the SEC penalized Aegis $750,000 after the brokerage firm admitted that it failed to file required suspicious activity reports (“SAR’s”) on numerous penny stock transactions from “at least late 2012 through early 2014.”

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financial charts and stockbrokerOn March 27, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced formal charges against Wedbush Securities Inc. (“Wedbush”, CRD# 877) with respect to allegations that the broker-dealer failed to supervise its employee, Ms. Timary Delorme (f/k/a Timary Koller) (“Delorme”).  Based on its investigation, the SEC alleged Wedbush ignored numerous red flags indicating that Ms. Delorme — who has been affiliated with Wedbush as a registered representative since 1981 — was purportedly involved in a manipulative penny stock trading scheme with Izak Zirk Englebrecht, a/k/a Zirk De Maison “(“Englebrecht”).

As alleged by the SEC, Mr. Englebrecht engaged in manipulative trading, commonly referred to as “pump and dumps”, through the use of various thinly traded microcap penny stocks.  According to the SEC’s allegations, Ms. Delorme purchased stocks at Englebrecht’s behest in certain customer accounts, and in turn received undisclosed material benefits.  Moreover, the SEC’s findings suggest that Wedbush ignored numerous red flags associated with Ms. Delorme’s alleged involvement in the scheme, including a customer email outlining her involvement, as well as several FINRA arbitrations regarding her penny stock trading activity.

In response to the red flags, Wedbush purportedly conducted two investigations into Ms. Delorme’s conduct.  The SEC has characterized Wedbush’s investigation as “flawed and insufficient”, and that ultimately the brokerage firm failed to take appropriate action to address the alleged misconduct.  The SEC’s order instituting administrative proceedings against Wedbush charges that the broker-dealer failed to reasonably supervise its broker, Ms. Delorme.  The matter will come before an administrative law judge, who will hear the case and prepare an initial decision — there have not yet been any findings of misconduct.

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money whirlpoolAegis Capital Corp. (“Aegis”, CRD# 15007) was recently fined by both the SEC and FINRA in connection with allegations concerning the firm’s purported failure to supervise suspicious penny stock transactions in certain customer delivery versus payment (“DVP”) accounts.  Specifically, based on its investigation, FINRA alleged that “Aegis failed to adequately monitor or investigate the trading in seven DVP customer accounts that liquidated billions of shares of low-priced securities, generating millions of dollars in proceeds for its customers.”  Of considerable concern to both the SEC and FINRA, Aegis allegedly failed to identify these trades as suspicious even after its clearing firm put Aegis on alert of various Anti-Money Laundering (“AML”) red flags surrounding “suspicious low-priced securities transactions.”

On Wednesday, March 28, FINRA announced a fine of $550,000 against Aegis for its alleged supervisory failures.  Further, the SEC penalized Aegis $750,000 after the brokerage firm admitted that it failed to file required suspicious activity reports (“SAR’s”) on numerous penny stock transactions.  Additionally, Aegis’ CEO, Robert Eide, was fined $40,000 by the SEC in a separate action concerning the broker-dealer’s failure to file SARs from “at least late 2012 through early 2014.”

Formed in January 1984 and headquartered in New York, New York, Aegis is a mid-sized, full service retail and institutional broker-dealer.  As of March 2017, Aegis employed approximately 415 brokers in its sixteen branches.  The bulk of Aegis’ branch office network is located in New York City and Long Island, NY, in addition to a presence in New Jersey, Connecticut, Texas, Florida, Oregon, South Carolina, and Puerto Rico.