Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My Favorite Stock Scam Blowhards

Re-reading the email from the senior manager of InterOil's media relations department reminded me of one of the best ever. I referenced it in a post on Planktos which long time readers will remember as one of the best shorts ever.

After doing this a while you don't even need to call in the forensic accountants to spot the weird ones. A bit of backround, Equisure Inc. was purportedly a reinsurer based in Belgium that had, in a remarkably short period of time gone from the NASDAQ bulletin board to the American Stock Exchange by way of a reverse merger with a dormant shell company.

The heart of the scam was to hype the stock by way of news releases to a) gun the stock for the early buyers and b) get the stock on the Federal Reserve Board's list of marginable securities.
That step is a bit more sophisticated than your run-of-the-mill pump and dump because it allows the crooks to borrow against the shares rather than having to sell them. The lack of selling pressure makes it easier to maintain the run-up until the plug is pulled.

Of course the scammers also took whatever petty cash was in the company's coffers.
I never saw a complete accounting but a fair estimate of the EQE take was $100 Mil.

From our June 27, 2007 post "Planktos Highlights Real Ocean/Climate Crises & Responds to Recent Misinformation Campaigns":

But first, one of my favorite examples of a stock scam (I told you, I have a morbid fascination with the underbelly of the markets, it's like watching the lions approach the wildebeest at the watering hole, you don't want to see it but you can't look away):

...Peter Uttley, Equisure's chairman and a former Lloyds of London executive, took control of the company this week, assuming the chief executive post....

...Uttley said in the press release that his chairman role had been a "passive" one, but he now plans an active reorganization of the company, whose reputation has been stained by allegations that it is a scam insurance operation....

...In an unusually emotional statement to the press, sent from an Equisure board meeting Friday in London, Uttley told his version of events over the summer, which eventually led to the delisting of Equisure shares on the American Stock Exchange.

"The simple truth was consumed in the belly of deception, but now has been vomited for the world to see," Uttley began.

He then proceeded to tell a story of three men, whom he described as "liars," "cheats," and "scallywags," who worked with law enforcement officials and the press to spread false rumors about the company with the intent of buying Equisure out at 50 cents a share, a tiny fraction of the stock's trading price of $15, before AMEX suspended trading Aug. 1.

Isn't that damn fine bloviating? It's hard to research but I think Uttley et. al. got away with $100 mil.

Here's Russ George of Planktos responding (I think) to Greenpeace's submission to the recent meeting of the International Maritime Organization, in the Ottawa Citizen:

I am not the enemy

The environmentalists attacking my plan to seed carbon-sequestering ocean plankton should understand that we are both on the same side

Russ George, Citizen Special

...And yes, we do this for profit and expect to earn good returns for those who invest in our public company stock....