Wednesday, November 23, 2011

SEC Halts Scam Touting Access to Pre-IPO Shares of Facebook and Groupon

The SEC filed an emergency enforcement action to stop a fraudulent scheme targeting investors seeking coveted stock in Internet and technology companies like Facebook and Groupon in advance of a public offering.

Several individuals utilized a newly-minted hedge fund (The Praetorian Global Fund) to claim to own shares worth tens of millions of dollars in companies such as Facebook and Groupon. The companies targeted were expected to soon hold an initial public offering. Taking advantage of investor interest in pre-IPO shares that are virtually impossible for company outsiders to obtain, the individuals solicited funds and gave investors a false sense of comfort that their money was protected by telling them that an escrow service was receiving their funds.

Yet in reality the individuals never owned the promised pre-IPO shares in these companies. The escrow service only served to transfer investor funds to personal accounts controlled by two of the involved individuals. The funds were then used for lavish personal expenses (private jets, cars, art) and to pay off other individuals involved.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which conducted a parallel investigation of the matter, filed criminal charges against the lead individual, a Florida resident. The Florida resident has been the subject of prior SEC enforcement action and several state criminal actions.
SEC Halts Scam Touting Access to Pre-IPO Shares of Facebook and Groupon

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