SEC Suspends Trading Of 35 Companies Touted In Spam Email Campaigns
Investor Protection Agency Unveils "Operation Spamalot"
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, D.C., March 8, 2007 - The Securities and Exchange Commission this morning suspended trading in the securities of 35 companies that have been the subject of recent and repeated spam email campaigns (see examples). The trading suspensions - the most ever aimed at spammed companies - were ordered because of questions regarding the adequacy and accuracy of information about the companies.
The trading suspensions are part of a stepped-up SEC effort - code named "Operation Spamalot" - to protect investors from potentially fraudulent spam email hyping small company stocks with phrases like, "Ready to Explode," "Ride the Bull," and "Fast Money." It's estimated that 100 million of these spam messages are sent every week, triggering dramatic spikes in share price and trading volume before the spamming stops and investors lose their money.
"When spam clogs our mailboxes, it's annoying. When it rips off investors, it's illegal and destructive," said SEC Chairman Christopher Cox. "Today's trading suspensions, and actions that will follow, should send a clear message to spammers: the SEC will hold you accountable."
Linda Chatman Thomsen, Director of the SEC's Enforcement Division, said, "Many of these companies are no doubt familiar to anyone who reads their email, because each has been the subject of a spam email campaign. While the Commission cautions investors not to make investment decisions based on anonymous emails they receive, we are also committed to tracking down those who prey on investors with false or misleading information."
Mark K. Schonfeld, Director of the Commission's Northeast Regional Office, said, "By halting trading in these stocks we are seeking to protect investors from further harm. But this is only the first step. Our investigation of the perpetrators - the people behind this misconduct - is continuing."
The securities of each of the 35 companies have been quoted on the Pink Sheets quotations service. Recent trading clearly demonstrates how spam campaigns can affect stock prices and trading volume. For example:
- On Friday, Dec. 15, 2006, shares in Apparel Manufacturing Associates, Inc. (APPM) closed at $.06, with a trading volume of 3,500 shares. After a weekend spam campaign distributed emails proclaiming, "Huge news expected out on APPM, get in before the wire, We're taking it all the way to $1.00," trading volume on Monday, Dec. 18, 2006, hit 484,568 shares with the price spiking to over 19 cents a share. Two days later the price climbed to $.45. By Dec. 27, 2006, the price was back down to $.10 on trading volume of 65,350 shares.
- On Dec. 19, 2006, trading in Goldmark Industries, Inc. (GDKI), closed at $.17 on trading volume of 126,286 shares. On Dec. 20, 2006, the spam campaign started, with e-mail proclaiming "GDKI IS MAKING EVERYONE BANK!," and setting a 5-day price target of $2. By Dec. 28, 2006, spam emails boasted of the price spike that had already been achieved -- "$.28 (Up 152% in 2 days!!!)" -- and promised a 5-day price target of $1. That same day, GDKI closed at $.35 on a volume of more than 5 million shares. By January 9, 2007, the closing share price was back down to $.15.
- A spam campaign in Healtheuniverse, Inc. (HLUN) stock began on Sept. 4, 2006, with emails incorporating a Healtheuniverse press release proclaiming that HLUN was "focused on being the first to commercialize stem cell applications in the $15 billion worldwide plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery market." On Sept. 7, 2006, HLUN closed at $.12 per share on trading volume of 3,000 shares. The spam campaign accelerated, and HLUN shares spiked to $.22 per share on Sept. 11, 2006, with over 2.2 million shares trading hands. By Sept. 22, 2006, the closing price had dropped back down to $.11.
The trading suspensions will last for ten business days. The trading suspensions commenced today at 9:30 a.m., EDT, and terminate at 11:59 p.m., EDT, on March 21, 2007.
The 35 companies whose trading was suspended today are: Advanced Powerline Technologies Inc. (APWL), America Asia Petroleum Corp. (AAPM), Amerossi Int'l Group, Inc. (AMSN), Apparel Manufacturing Associates, Inc. (APPM), Asgard Holdings Inc. (AGHG), Biogenerics Ltd. (BIGN), China Gold Corp. (CGDC), CTR Investments & Consulting, Inc. (CIVX), DC Brands International, Inc. (DCBI), Equal Trading, Inc. (EQTD), Equitable Mining Corp. (EQBM), Espion International, Inc. (EPLJ), Goldmark Industries, Inc. (GDKI), GroFeed Inc. (GFDI), Healtheuniverse, Inc. (HLUN), Interlink Global Corp. (ILKG), Investigative Services Agencies, Inc. (IVAY), iPackets International, Inc. (IPKL), Koko Petroleum Inc. (KKPT), Leatt Corporation (LEAT), LOM Logistics, Inc. (LOMJ), Modern Energy Corp. (MODR), National Healthcare Logistics, Inc. (NHLG), Presidents Financial Corp. (PZFC), Red Truck Entertainment Inc. (RTRK), Relay Capital Corp. (RLYC), Rodedawg International Industries, Inc. (RWGI), Rouchon Industries, Inc. (RCHN), Software Effective Solutions Corp. (SFWJ), Solucorp Industries Ltd. (SLUP), Sports-stuff.com Inc. (SSUF), UBA Technology, Inc. (UBTG), Wataire Industries Inc. (WTAF), WayPoint Biomedical Holdings, Inc. (WYPH), and Wineco Productions Inc. (WNCP).
The 35 suspensions concern companies that are not subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Not listed on any exchange, or on the OTC Bulletin Board, the companies' securities have been quoted on the Pink Sheets quotation service on an unsolicited basis, meaning that the brokers posting quotations for the purchase and sale of the securities are not required to conduct due diligence regarding the issuers.
The Commission cautions broker-dealers, shareholders, and prospective purchasers that they should carefully consider the foregoing information along with all other currently available information and any information subsequently issued by the companies. Further, broker-dealers should be alert to the fact that, pursuant to Rule 15c2-11 under the Exchange Act, at the termination of the trading suspensions, no quotation may be entered unless and until they have strictly complied with all of the provisions of the rule. If any broker-dealer enters any quotation that is in violation of the rule, the Commission will consider the need for prompt enforcement action.
The Commission's Office of Investor Education and Assistance has information for investors and members of the general public on topics directly related to this action. See http://www.sec.gov/investor/35tradingsuspensions.htm.
Any broker-dealer, investor, or other person with information relating to this matter is invited to email the Securities and Exchange Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Commission appreciates the assistance and cooperation of the National Association of Securities Dealers, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the British Columbia Securities Commission, and the Ontario Securities Commission.
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Members of the press may contact:
Helene T. Glotzer (212) 336-0078
Associate Director, Northeast Regional Office
Bruce Karpati (212) 336-0104
Assistant Regional Director, Northeast Regional Office
Additional materials: Trading Suspension; Release No. 34-55420 and