Securities and Exchange Commission v. Hunter, Civil Action No. 12-cv-3123 (S.D.N.Y.)

BRITISH TWIN BROTHERS AGREE TO PAY $175,000 TO SETTLE MICROCAP PUMP-AND-DUMP CHARGES

The Securities and Exchange Commission recently announced that brothers Alexander John Hunter and Thomas Edward Hunter, both of Great Britain, have agreed to settle the Commission’s pending civil action against them. The Commission’s complaint, filed April 20, 2012 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges that the Hunters were just 16 years old when they began disseminating subscription-based e-mail newsletters through a pair of websites they created to tout stocks selected by a “stock picking robot,” which they described as a highly sophisticated computer trading program that was the product of extensive research and development. Some investors paid an additional fee for the “home version” of the robot software.

The Commission’s complaint also alleges that the brothers separately created a third website where they marketed their newsletter subscriber list to penny stock promoters and boasted, “One email to this list of people rockets a stock price.” The Hunters were in turn paid to send selected penny stock ticker symbols to their subscribers, who were misled to believe that the stock “picks” were the product of the robot. The Hunters sent out their newsletters near the beginning of the trading day, and the price and volume of the promoted stocks spiked dramatically as newsletter subscribers rushed to purchase shares. However, the stocks typically fell precipitously shortly thereafter, leaving investors in most cases with shares worth less than they had purchased them for earlier in the day.

According to the SEC’s complaint, the Hunters also offered subscribers a downloadable version of the stock picking robot for an additional fee of $97. Rather than performing the analysis advertised, the software was actually designed to deliver users a stock pick supplied by the brothers.

The Commission’s complaint alleges that by virtue of the conduct described above, the Defendants violated the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws.

Under the announced settlement, the Hunter brothers, without admitting or denying the allegations in the Commission’s complaint, consented to the entry of a judgment requiring Alex Hunter to pay a $100,000 penalty, requiring Tom Hunter to pay a $75,000 penalty, and enjoining both brothers individually from future violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder.

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