Securities and Exchange Commission v. Spencer Pharmaceutical Inc., Jean-François Amyot, Maximilien Arella, Ian Morrice, IAB Media Inc., and Hilbroy Advisory Inc., Civil Action No. 1:12-cv-12334 (D. Mass.)
SEC Charges Company based in Massachusetts and Canada and Other Parties in Stock Pump-and-Dump Scheme Involving Fictitious Buyout Offer
The Securities and Exchange Commission filed an enforcement action on December 17, 2012, in federal court in Boston charging Spencer Pharmaceutical Inc., its officers, and several other parties for their roles in a “pump-and-dump” scheme involving Spencer’s stock. The Commission’s complaint alleges that Jean-François Amyot, a Canadian resident who controlled Spencer, orchestrated the scheme and worked with Maximilien Arella and Ian Morrice, Spencer’s officers and directors, as well as IAB Media Inc. and Hilbroy Advisory Inc., two other companies controlled by Amyot, to create and disseminate false press releases, including press releases about a fictitious buyout offer for Spencer, and to otherwise promote Spencer’s stock. The Commission alleges that the promotional campaign pumped up the price of Spencer’s stock, and Amyot benefited by dumping his own Spencer stock at artificially inflated prices.
The Commission’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, alleges that beginning in November 2010, Spencer, a purported pharmaceutical company with addresses in Boston, Massachusetts, and Canada, disseminated false and misleading press releases claiming that it had received an unsolicited buyout offer from a Mideast company for $245 million when, in fact, the purported buyout offer was not real. The complaint further alleges that Arella and Morrice worked with Amyot to create and disseminate the fraudulent press releases. According to the complaint, while Spencer was issuing the press releases, the defendants were conducting a promotional campaign using Internet websites and newsletters to tout Spencer’s stock and the bogus buyout offer, and the false press releases and promotional campaign were successful in pumping up the price of Spencer’s stock. For example, after Spencer publically announced that the Mideast company proposed to pay $245 million for Spencer, the price of Spencer stock more than doubled in two days – opening at $0.25 per share on November 10, 2010 and closing at $0.60 per share on November 12 – and the daily trading volume for Spencer’s stock reached almost six million shares on November 11, compared to a daily average trading volume of less than 50,000 shares during the previous three months. During the time the buyout offer was being promoted, Amyot sold approximately 36 million Spencer shares for gross proceeds of approximately $5.8 million. Each of the defendants are charged by the Commission with violating various antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws. The complaint further charges Spencer, Amyot, and Arella with violating securities registration provisions of the securities laws. According to the complaint, Amyot and Arella were involved in a series of transfers involving 12 million Spencer shares that were done to evade the securities registration requirements and move the shares into an account controlled by Amyot.
The Commission also suspended trading in Spencer securities on December 17, 2012, 34-68447. Securities of Spencer were quoted on OTC Link operated by OTC Markets Group Inc.
The Commission alleges that Spencer, Amyot, Arella, and Morrice violated Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 (Securities Act) and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act) and Rule 10b-5 thereunder; that IAB Media and Hilbroy violated Sections 17(a)(1) and (3) of the Securities Act and Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rules 10b-5(a) and (c); and that Arella, Morrice, IAB Media, and Hilbroy aided and abetted the violations by Spencer of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act and Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5. The Commission also alleges that Amyot is liable for Spencer’s violations of Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 as the company’s control person and that Spencer, Amyot, and Arella violated Sections 5(a) and 5(c) of the Securities Act. The Commission is seeking permanent injunctions, disgorgement plus prejudgment interest, and civil penalties against Spencer, Amyot, Arella, Morrice, IAB Media, and Hilbroy. It also seeks an order prohibiting Amyot, Arella, and Morrice from serving as an officer or director of a public company and from participating in the offering of a penny stock.