Regulators in British Columbia have ordered market bans and $17.4 million in penalties and disgorgement against a firm and three people that were involved in funding an apparent pump-and-dump scheme.
A hearing panel of the British Columbia Securities Commission (BCSC) handed down sanctions against a Swiss wealth management firm, EHT Corporate Services S.A.; one of the firm’s former managing directors, David Craven; and two Vancouver residents, Raffi Khorchidian and Garo Aram Deyrmenjian. The BCSC previously found the firm and three people to be involved in a scheme to tout a U.S. company, Kunekt, that traded on the over-the-counter (OTC) bulletin board.
The sanctions ordered by the panel follow a ruling last April, which found that the same actors violated securities laws by participating in a “tout sheet marketing campaign” that pumped up Kunekt’s stock price with “grossly promotional” claims about the company’s prospects. As a result, the panel said, the company reached a market cap of almost $180 million, despite having no proprietary technology and only about $360,000 in assets.
In particular, the panel found that Deyrmenjian, Khorchidian and EHT helped finance the marketing campaign that pumped up the company’s stock price, and that Craven allowed EHT’s conduct to take place.
In its sanctions decision, released Monday, the panel ordered that Khorchidian disgorge $7.15 million and pay an $850,000 penalty. It also ordered $7.14 million in disgorgement against Deyrmenjian, along with a $700,000 penalty. Craven received a $850,000 penalty, and the firm was sanctioned $700,000. They are all also permanently banned from B.C.’s markets.
“We found the misconduct of Khorchidian and Deyrmenjian to be fundamental to the promotional activity that created the artificial price for the Kunekt shares. Accounts beneficially owned by these respondents realized millions of dollars from trading Kunekt shares into that artificial price,” the panel said in ordering the more than $7 million in disgorgement against each of them.
“Given the seriousness of Khorchidian’s and Deyrmenjian’s misconduct and the consequent harm to the public markets, there is no question that it is in the public interest to order that these respondents disgorge the full amount of the net proceeds realized by all of the accounts beneficially owned by them from trading in Kunekt shares,” it noted.