SEC Charges New York-Based Firm and Owner in Penny Stock Scheme
The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a New York-based firm and its owner with conducting a penny stock scheme in which they bought billions of stock shares from small companies and illegally resold those shares in the public market.
The SEC alleges that Edward Bronson and E-Lionheart Associates LLC reaped more than $10 million in unlawful profits from selling shares they bought at deep discounts from approximately 100 penny stock companies. On average, Bronson and E-Lionheart were able to generate sales proceeds that were approximately double the price at which they had acquired the shares. No registration statement was filed or in effect for any of the securities that Bronson and E-Lionheart resold to the investing public, and no valid exemption from the registration requirements of the federal securities laws was available.
“By violating the registration provisions of the securities laws and dumping billions of unregistered shares into the over-the-counter market, Bronson deprived investors of important information about the companies in which they were investing,” said Andrew M. Calamari, Acting Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office.
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Bronson lives in Ossining, N.Y. E-Lionheart, which also does business under the name Fairhills Capital, is located in White Plains. Acting at Bronson’s direction, E-Lionheart personnel systematically “cold called” penny stock companies quoted on the OTC Link to ask if they were interested in obtaining capital. If the company was interested, E-Lionheart personnel would offer to buy stock in the company at a rate that was deeply discounted from the trading price of the company’s stock at that time. Typically, Bronson and E-Lionheart immediately began reselling the shares to the investing public through a broker within days of receiving the shares from the company.
Bronson and E-Lionheart purported to rely on an exemption from registration under Rule 504(b)(1)(iii) of Regulation D, which exempts transactions that are in compliance with certain types of state law exemptions. However, no such state law exemptions were applicable to these transactions. Bronson and E-Lionheart claimed to rely on a Delaware state law registration exemption, but the transactions in fact had little or no connection to the state of Delaware. The particular Delaware state law exemption claimed by Bronson and E-Lionheart is not an exemption that meets the specific requirements of Rule 504(b)(1)(iii). As a result, investors purchasing these shares did not have access to all of the information that a registration statement would have provided, including in many instances important information concerning the issuance of millions of new shares by the company to Bronson and E-Lionheart.
The SEC’s complaint charges E-Lionheart and Bronson with violations of the registration provisions of the federal securities laws, and seeks disgorgement of more than $10 million in ill-gotten gains, penalties. The SEC also seeks penny stock bars against E-Lionheart and Bronson. The complaint also names another entity owned and controlled by Bronson – Fairhills Capital Inc. – as a relief defendant for the purpose of recovering the illegal proceeds it received.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted in the SEC’s New York Regional Office by Senior Attorney William Edwards and Assistant Regional Director Wendy B. Tepperman. The SEC’s litigation will be led by Senior Trial Counsel Kevin McGrath.