The Securities and Exchange Commission announced charges last week against Mark Melnick, the host of a stock trading webcast, for spreading more than 100 false rumors about public companies in order to generate illicit profits.
The SEC previously charged Barton Ross for his role in this scheme.
According to the complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on September 30, 2021, Melnick received advance notice of companies about which another scheme participant planned to spread false rumors, and then shared the companies’ names with subscribers to his online trading room.
Melnick advised the subscribers that he had taken positions in the companies, while other scheme participants also spread the false rumors through real-time financial news services, financial chat rooms, and message boards. These false rumors caused the prices of the subject companies’ securities to rise temporarily.
Between January 2018 and January 2020, Melnick allegedly spread and/or traded around the false rumors over 100 times, generating more than $374,000 in illicit profits. The other scheme participants also traded around the false rumors, generating significant profits.
“Melnick was allegedly engaged in an extensive market manipulation scheme to create and spread over 100 false rumors about publicly traded companies,” said Kristina Littman, Chief of the Enforcement Division’s Cyber Unit. “We will continue to work aggressively with our law enforcement partners to detect and punish schemes that undermine the integrity of our markets.”
The SEC’s complaint charges Melnick with violating the antifraud provisions 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.
Melnick has agreed to cooperate with the Enforcement Division and has consented to the entry of a judgment that, subject to court approval, will permanently enjoin him from violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws and require him to pay disgorgement of $374,835 plus prejudgment interest and a civil penalty in an amount to be determined at a later date.
Melnick has also agreed to a penny stock bar and to be barred from the securities industry. In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia today announced that Melnick pleaded guilty to related criminal charges.
The SEC’s investigation, which is ongoing, is being conducted by Martin Zerwitz of the Enforcement Division’s Cyber Unit and Jonathan Austin. The investigation is supervised by Deborah Tarasevich; Ms. Littman; and Joseph G. Sansone, Chief of the Enforcement Division’s Market Abuse Unit. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.