SEC charges couple behind with “fraudulently touting penny stocks”

Below is the full text of the SEC press release (see also the Quebec securities regulators’ press release in French):

SEC Charges Two Canadians With Fraudulently Touting Penny Stocks on a Website, Facebook and Twitter

Washington, D.C., June 29, 2010 — The Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that it has obtained an emergency asset freeze against a Canadian couple who fraudulently touted penny stocks through their website, Facebook and Twitter. The SEC also charged two companies the couple control and obtained an asset freeze against them.

According to the SEC’s complaint, the defendants profited by selling penny stocks at or around the same time that they were touting them on The website invites investors to sign up for daily stock alerts through email, text messages, Facebook and Twitter.

The SEC alleges that since at least April 2009, Carol McKeown and Daniel F. Ryan, a couple residing in Montreal, Canada, have touted U.S. microcap companies. According to the SEC’s complaint, McKeown and Ryan received millions of shares of touted companies through their two corporations, defendants Downshire Capital Inc., and Meadow Vista Financial Corp., as compensation for their touting. McKeown and Ryan sold the shares on the open market while PennyStockChaser simultaneously predicted massive price increases for the issuers, a practice known as “scalping.”

“As alleged in our complaint, McKeown and Ryan used all the modern methods to communicate with investors including the PennyStockChaser website, e-mail, text messages, Facebook, and Twitter yet failed to adequately communicate that their rosy predictions for touted stocks were accompanied by their sales of those very same stocks.” said Eric I. Bustillo, Director of the SEC’s Miami Regional Office.

The SEC’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, also alleges McKeown, Ryan and one of their corporations failed to disclose the full amount of the compensation they received for touting stocks on PennyStockChaser. The SEC alleges that McKeown, Ryan and their corporations have realized at least $2.4 million in sales proceeds from their scalping scheme.

The SEC’s complaint charges McKeown, Ryan, Downshire Capital Inc. and Meadow Vista Financial Corp. with violating Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The SEC’s complaint also charges McKeown, Ryan and Meadow Vista Financial Corp. with violating Section 17(b) of the Securities Act of 1933. In addition to the emergency relief already granted by the U.S. District Court the Commission also seeks a preliminary injunction and permanent injunction, along with disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest and the imposition of a financial penalty, penny stock bars against the individuals and the repatriation of assets to the United States.

In the course of its investigation, the SEC worked with the Quebec Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), which was also investigating this matter. As a result of both ongoing investigations, the AMF obtained an emergency order freezing assets and a cease trade order against McKeown, Ryan, Downshire Capital Inc. and Meadow Vista Financial Corp. The SEC appreciates the collaboration with the AMF.

The SEC’s case was investigated by Michael L. Riedlinger, Timothy J. Galdencio and Eric R. Busto of the Miami Regional Office. The SEC’s litigation effort will be led by Christine Nestor, Amie R. Berlin and Robert K. Levenson. The SEC’s investigation is continuing.

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For more information regarding this enforcement action, contact:

Eric I. Bustillo
Regional Director, SEC’s Miami Regional Office
(305) 982-6300

Glenn S. Gordon
Associate Regional Director, SEC’s Miami Regional Office
(305) 982-6300

Disclosure: No connection to PennyStockChaser. This blog has a terms of use that is incorporated by reference into this post; you can find all my disclaimers and disclosures there as well.

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