Washington DC (STL.News) The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed an emergency action and obtained an asset freeze against 18 traders in a scheme to manipulate more than 3,000 U.S.-listed securities for over $31 million in illicit profits.
The SEC alleges that the traders, who are primarily based in China, manipulated the prices of thousands of thinly traded securities by creating the false appearance of trading interest and activity in those stocks, thereby enabling them to reap illicit profits by artificially boosting or depressing stock prices. For example, according to the SEC’s complaint, the traders used multiple accounts to place several small sell orders to drive down a stock’s price before using a different set of accounts to buy larger amounts of the stock at the artificially low prices. After accumulating their position, the traders then flipped the script and placed several small buy orders to push up prices so they could then sell their stock at artificially high prices.
“We allege that defendants engaged in an extensive manipulation scheme and went to great lengths to evade detection, placing trades in over one hundred separate accounts at several different brokerage firms and submitting falsified documents to open new accounts in the names of others,” said Joseph G. Sansone, Chief of the SEC’s Market Abuse Unit. “Despite their efforts, the SEC staff was able to uncover the connections between these seemingly unrelated accounts and expose the defendants’ coordinated pattern of illicit trading.”
In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts announced criminal charges against two of the traders, Jiali Wang and Xiaosong Wang.
The SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Boston and unsealed today, charges the traders with violating and aiding and abetting violations of the antifraud provisions of the securities laws. In addition to the asset freeze and other emergency relief obtained, the SEC seeks disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus interest, penalties, and injunctive relief.