On May 14, someone used the SEC’s EDGAR database to plant a bogus news release that claimed a company known as PTG Capital Partners LTD. had made an offer to buy out Avon Products Inc. for $18.75 a share. As NPR put it on May 15, this was “a huge premium.”
DealBook, on May 14, reported that the “federal government’s system for filing securities documents may not be as secure as many on Wall Street assume.”
Given that the typo-laden hoax that appears in part to have been a copy-and-paste job in which words were lifted from the website of a legitimate company caused Avon’s stock price to surge, the news release looked like a pump-and-dump bid. It could be that, of course.
But it also could be something more sinister: a marketplace taunt, if not a taunt at the U.S. government itself that more or less screams, “Look what we can do! And we don’t need even to hire an editor!”
The theatrics that effectively turned part of the SEC’s website into a crime scene appear to have gotten under way at roughly 11:30 a.m. on Thursday. Avon responded quickly, issuing a statement within about 90 minutes.
“In response to an SEC filing made by an entity purporting to be named ‘PTG Capital Partners,’ Avon reports that it has not received any offer or other communication from such an entity and has not been able to confirm that such an entity exists,” the company said.
Like A Ponzi-Board Scam
Remember Profitable Sunrise, the egregious scam shut down by the SEC and state regulators in 2013? The SEC alleged that Profitable Sunrise operated from a “mail drop” in England and had a registered agent based in Seychelles, an island chain in the Indian Ocean.
A listing for PTG Capital Partners on the SEC’s website claims the business has a street address in London and was incorporated in “BRITISH INDIAN OCEAN TERRITORY.”
In a May 15 story, the Wall Street Journal, reporting on an FBI inquiry into the bogus Avon takeover bid and citing information from a U.K. government official, noted that “[t]here are no businesses registered in the British Indian Ocean Territory.”
Any number of recent scams appear either to have fabricated U.K. addresses or used mail drops to reach out and pluck the masses. The utterly preposterous Rockfeller.biz was only one of them. Others include MooreFund and SummitOilProfits.
These scams, which often use an MLM or network marketing component in which affiliates are promised recruitment commissions, are stealing millions and millions of dollars. The money disappears down ratholes.
Now, Avon, an MLM company, appears to have been targeted in a similar scheme — one that may have the appearance of a pump-and-dump but perhaps was calculated to taunt the government.
In March 2014, the SEC alleged that a “program” known as Fleet Mutual Wealth Limited (or Mutual Wealth) effectively had filed invalid Forms D with the commission to dupe the masses. “Pre-IPO” scams also are of concern. (See UFunClub.)
Some international scammers allegedly have traded on American-sounding names to fleece their marks. (See ProfitsParadise.)
The bogus PTG Capital Partners offer to buy Avon is of significant concern. It should be investigated as an attack on the free market.