An SEC enforcement division press release today shows why penny stock manipulation remains popular and why I hate the SEC. According to the SEC:
“The Commission’s complaint alleged that, in August and September 2002, Hayden, Marc Duchesne, and others carried out a scheme to manipulate the price of Nationwide’s stock. The scheme was orchestrated by Duchesne, and began with a matched trade between Duchesne and Hayden that artificially inflated Nationwide’s stock price from pennies to $9.35 per share. The Complaint further alleged that, thereafter, Duchesne, Hayden, and others bought or sold Nationwide shares at inflated prices to increase the price of Nationwide stock, to generate volume, and to stimulate market demand for the manipulated shares. The scheme collapsed on October 1, 2002, when the Commission suspended trading in Nationwide securities. “
The judge “entered a Final Judgment of permanent injunction and other relief, including a bar against participating in offerings of penny stocks, against Jeffrey A. Hayden on May 7, 2008.” Hayden agreed to the judgment “without admitting or denying the Commission’s allegations.”
Midway through reading the press release I thought to myself, “Hey, maybe the SEC finally is starting to care about penny stock manipulation!” The description of the financial penalty imposed upon Hayden destroyed any last shreds of hope I might have had that the SEC cares about doing its job (emphasis mine):
“Hayden was liable for disgorgement of $290,798, together with prejudgment interest of $116,330, but payment of these amounts was waived based upon Hayden’s sworn Statement of Financial Condition. A civil penalty was not imposed for the same reason.”
There you have it! The only penalty to Hayden was a promise not to manipulate penny stocks. He did not have to pay one penny. That is less than a slap on the wrist. This is yet another reason why I believe that we should abolish the SEC and most stock regulations and instead pursue stock market fraud under the common law definition of fraud. Penalties would be far harsher and might actually scare people away from penny stock manipulation.
(Note–I am not a lawyer; if you are one and I am spouting nonsense, please let me know!)