Ciaran Thornton of fined by SEC

One of the more venerable online trading newsletters is, run by Ciaran Thornton (@buysellshort on Twitter). I’ve been aware of him for over a decade (though I never subscribed). He has 60,000 followers on Twitter (compared to my 30,000) and has written for (although his last article was in 2014). He also wrote articles on (which have since been removed).

Evidently not content to make money running a stock trading newsletter, Ciaran Thornton was paid for positive articles that he wrote about some stocks, without disclosing that compensation. He was sued along with 26 others by the SEC last week. See the SEC’s order against Thornton (PDF). Following are quotes from that order. Thornton settled with the SEC, neither admitting nor denying the allegations.

On the basis of this Order and Respondent’s Offer, the Commission finds:

Between April 2013 and February 2014, Ciaran Thornton violated the anti-fraud and antitouting provisions of the federal securities laws by publishing various communications describing issuer securities on investment websites that purported to be independent when, in fact, they were paid promotions.

Here are the SEC’s findings of fact (emphasis mine):

Between April 2013 and February 2014, Thornton published 15 articles and one blog entry on investment websites, and, using the pseudonyms Stock Investor, Itradethebios, and BuySellShort. Thornton’s publications positively described the securities of the following six issuers that were clients of Lidingo, or another stock promotion firm affiliated with Lidingo: Arch Therapeutics, Inc., Assured Pharmacy, Inc., Galena Biopharma, Inc., NeoStem, Inc. (now Caladrius Biosciences, Inc.), OncoSec Medical Incorporated, and Stevia First Corporation (now Vitality Biopharma, Inc.). Lidingo paid Thornton $600 for each publication, for a total of $9,600.

4. Thornton did not disclose that these articles were paid-for promotions or the amount of the compensation he received. Moreover, in nine articles, Thornton misrepresented that he was “not receiving compensation” for the article. These nine articles were published on Seeking Alpha’s website. Thornton falsely stated that he was not receiving compensation because, at the time, Seeking Alpha had a policy that expressly prohibited compensated articles. Thornton’s misstatements regarding his compensation were material.

5. Thornton’s articles included positive descriptions of publicly-traded stocks. Seeking Alpha held itself out as a “platform for investment research, with broad coverage of stocks, asset classes, ETFs and investment strategy” where “articles frequently move stocks, due to a large and influential readership which includes money managers, business leaders, journalists and bloggers.”

Thornton was fined as follows:

Respondent shall, within 14 days of the entry of this Order, pay disgorgement of $9,600, prejudgment interest of $858.65, and a civil monetary penalty in the amount of $20,000 to the Securities and Exchange Commission for transfer to the general fund of the United States Treasury

While this seems like a slap on the wrist, it is still nice that the SEC caught him (and other people listed in the press release that I will discuss in a following blog post). One of the most basic things you learn when blogging about stocks is that you must not lie about conflicts of interest. While it is legal (though not ethical) to receive payment to tout a stock, that payment must be disclosed. Also, if a trader writes about a stock they have a position in, they should disclose it (and failing to disclose it lead to an SEC suit if the trader is prominent enough).

Perhaps the most important lesson is one that I hope my blog readers have learned long ago: never trust other people’s analysis of stocks (no matter where you see that analysis appear) — many people lie or they may just be stupid and their analysis wrong.


Disclaimer. No position in any stocks mentioned and I have no relationship with anyone mentioned in this post except that I have written for SeekingAlpha in past years for which I received small compensation from SeekingAlpha based on how many people read the articles. Also, I can be seen as being something of a competitor to Ciaran Thornton as I make some money from my affiliate links. I also receive compensation from Tim Sykes for moderating his chatroom, etc. 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.

8 thoughts on “Ciaran Thornton of fined by SEC”

  1. BSS is the ULTIMATE pumper. Anyone that has common chart analysis skills can make the call outs he makes… This guy is SCAMMING hundreds of thousands of people someone needs to stop this man.

  2. Everyone knows he’s a pumper but ppl listening him because he can move stocks with his tweets alone .and most of the people this is what they want.

    1. George is on the right track here. Sure he gains from his followers (because how could he not? It’s simple math) but he also helps line their pockets if they follow and do their own due diligence. If anyone saying he’s a scammer actually joined his forums, they’d see he teaches fundamentals, constantly warns about the perils of chasing, and preaches a grind-it-out approach. It may sound silly, but he’s saved me a lot of $ and if that means that me joining the crew adds a little more to his bankroll, then so be it. He’s no WSB.

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