It's a brave new world. Or so it would seem for stock fraudsters engaged in sophisticated insider-trading schemes from overseas bases.
Make that alleged insider trading, because what we've got in the SEC's recent complaint against "Blue Bottle Limited," is a case that still offers more questions than answers.
What doesn't seem to be much at issue is that one Matthew Stokes -- or the person purporting to be Stokes -- lied about the location and business of Blue Bottle, even creating a phony London water bill in order to get Interactive Brokers to open a trading account, an account subsequently funded from a Cyprus bank. Also very firmly documented by the SEC complaint is the very suspicious pattern of trading engaged in by Blue Bottle, consisting largely of very short-term put or call purchases just before material news releases.
The companies which experienced big short-term hikes (and profited Blue Bottle to the tune of $2.7 million) include AllianceBernstein
How did Blue Bottle allegedly obtain material information? That part's still a mystery. However, it's not unusual for the SEC to get the big picture right before the details are filled in. In the recent past, options front-running cases have involved schemes as simple as insider info from investment bankers and executives, although the most memorable is probably the crowd that the SEC said hired a mole to infiltrate a Wisconsin printing plant to front-run Business Week's "Inside Wall Street" column. (In this latest one, my bet is on computer hacking of PR distributors.)
This will be an interesting case to watch, and I'm guessing the companies Blue Bottle bet on are more curious than the rest of us to know just how it all occurred.
Comments? Bring them here.
At the time of publication, Seth Jayson had no positions in any company mentioned here. See his latest blog commentary here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Symantec is an Inside Value pick, while AllianceBernstein is an Income Investor choice. Fool rules are here.