The SEC seems awfully interested in social media these days, and we assume it has little to do with Caleb’s obnoxious Whole Foods foursquare check-ins. Their latest nemesis? Pre-IPO investment scams purporting to be offering shares in hot non-public companies like Twitter, Facebook and Groupon.
SEC staff is aware of a number of complaints and inquiries about these types of pre-IPO investment scams, which may be promoted on social media and Internet sites, by telephone, email, in person, or by other means.
In September 2010, a judgment order was entered in favor of the SEC based on allegations that a scam artist had misappropriated more than $3.7 million from 45 investors in four states by offering fake pre-IPO shares of companies, including Centerpoint, AOL/Time Warner, Inc., Google, Inc., Facebook, Inc., and Rosetta Stone, Inc. In addition, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) issued a recent investor alert about these types of scams. While offerings of pre-IPO shares in a company are not uncommon, unregistered offerings may violate federal securities laws unless they meet a registration exemption, such as restricting the private offering to “accredited investors” — investors who meet certain income or net worth requirements.
Investors should be mindful of the risks involved with an offer to purchase pre-IPO shares in a company. As with any investment, we encourage investors to research thoroughly both the investment product and the professional offering the product before making any investment decision.
Since AOL/Time Warner went public in 2006, we have to assume the scam artist referenced above had been at this for quite some time before the SEC was finally able to bring down the heavy hand of justice on dat ass.
If you’re interested in further reading on the subject, check out FINRA’s Pre-IPO Offerings—These Scammers Are Not Your Friends:
In general, offerings of securities must either be registered with the SEC or meet an exemption under the federal securities laws—otherwise the offering is not legal. “Pre-IPO” speculation involves buying unregistered shares in a private company before the initial public offering of securities—and it can range from risky deals to outright frauds.
Wait, does this have anything to do with that whole Goldman Sachs Facebook embarrassment?
Beware emails from Nigerian princes selling pre-IPO shares in hot tech companies, people.