About Securities Fraud
Securities fraud is the act of lying or sharing insider information about a company or its stock value to influence other people’s investment decisions. While this may seem straightforward, the actual practice of prosecuting or defending a person who is charged with securities fraud is complex. Securities fraud charges cover a wide range of acts that a person can commit and often coincide with an SEC civil action or investigation.
For effective defense in the face of security fraud charges, turn to the Law Office of Ann Fitz. With 18 years of experience handling a wide range of federal white collar cases across three states, attorney Fitz draws on a wealth of knowledge when devising customized defense strategies.
Common Varieties Of Securities Fraud
Securities fraud, according to the FBI, includes a broad range of activities, including but not limited to high yield investment fraud, Ponzi and pyramid schemes, broker embezzlement, and advance fee schemes. Securities fraud is characterized by the misrepresentation of material information to investors in connection with the sale or purchase of securities and/or the manipulation of financial markets.
A “security” includes, but is not limited to, a “note, stock, treasury stock, security future, security-based swap, bond, debenture… option… [or] certificate of deposit.” Additionally, insider trading, falsifying information in corporate filings, lying to corporate auditors and manipulating share prices also fall within the ambit of securities fraud.
Below are a few common examples of securities fraud.
The people who organize Ponzi schemes solicit investments by making false claims about projected low risk and high returns. With each new investor, new funds come in, from which the instigators pay previous investors and usually keep some money for themselves. Meanwhile, the fund is not earning anything except the income from new investors. Once there are no more available new investors, the scheme collapses. People who joined late in the game typically end up with no gains and large losses.
Market manipulation occurs when an officer or director of a corporation does not accurately report the business’s financial information to its shareholders. This inaccurate report can artificially raise the value of the company’s stock and may urge investors to buy shares of an ailing company. If the company then goes bankrupt, the people who bought shares based on false information lose their entire investment.
“Pump And Dump” Schemes
“Pump and dump” schemes are a prevalent type of third-party misrepresentation that occur when a third party gives out false information about the stock market, a company or an industry. In a “pump and dump” scheme, a person will find an unknown company with affordable stock and buy many shares. That person will then send out false information about the company to encourage others to buy the stock, which then drives up the price. Once the price of the stock is high enough, the person sells, or dumps, their shares for a profit, devaluing the stock.
Insider trading is a type of securities fraud that involves the trading of a corporation’s securities (stocks, bonds or stock options) by corporate insiders such as officers, key employees, directors or holders of more than 10 percent of the firm’s shares. Insider trading is illegal when an insider buys or sells a security, in breach of a fiduciary duty or other relationship of trust and confidence, while in possession of material, nonpublic information about the security.
Examples of insider trading include:
- Corporate officers, directors and employees who trade the corporation’s securities after learning of significant, confidential corporate developments
- Friends, business associates and family members of corporate insiders who trade securities after receiving information
- Employees of law, banking and brokerage firms who have secret insider information about a corporation, who then trade securities after receiving confidential information
- Government employees who learn insider information because of their job
The criminal penalties for all forms of securities fraud are severe. Call us at 561-932-1690 to schedule your free consultation.
Civil Prosecutions For Securities Fraud
Securities fraud can be prosecuted as a criminal and/or civil case. When prosecuted as a civil case, the SEC often serves as the plaintiff and will file a complaint asking for sanctions or remedies against the defendant in U.S. District Court.
The SEC has the legal authority to compel production of records and other disclosures, obtain an injunction against the defendant to stop any actions that led to violations of the law, and seek the return of illegally obtained profits and/or monetary penalties.
SEC enforcement is civil and can result only in civil penalties. Therefore, a penalty of imprisonment will not be imposed in securities fraud cases prosecuted by the SEC.
However, the SEC can refer any alleged violation of securities laws over to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution, which can include a sentence of imprisonment.
The main difference between civil and criminal prosecutions of securities fraud cases is that the SEC (civil) prosecutes negligent violations of securities laws, whereas the DOJ (criminal) prosecutes willful violations of those laws.
Get An Experienced Defense Attorney To Work On Your Criminal Or Civil Securities Fraud Case
Attorney Ann Fitz takes a comprehensive, personalized approach to securities fraud defense. Your case may have both civil or criminal elements or both. Attorney Fitz has the skills necessary to tackle both angles simultaneously for a strong and effective defense.