March 17, 2007

An ordinary crime: stock manipulation

Sometimes when we can't seem to get anywhere on analysing our own sector of criminal activity, it helps to look at some ordinary stuff. Here's one:

According to the Commission's complaint, between July and November 2006, the Defendants repeatedly hijacked the online brokerage accounts of unwitting investors using stolen usernames and passwords. Prior to intruding into these accounts, the Defendants acquired positions in the securities of at least fourteen securities, including Sun Microsystems, Inc., and "out of the money" put options on shares of Google, Inc. Then, without the accountholders' knowledge, and using the victims' own accounts and funds, the Defendants placed scores of unauthorized buy orders at above-market prices. After these unauthorized buy orders were placed, the Defendants sold the positions held in their own accounts at the artificially inflated prices, realizing profits of over $121,500.

To achieve this benefit, the prosecution alleges that $875,000 of damage was done.

It's a point worth underscoring: a criminal attack in our world often involves doing much more damage than the gain to the criminal. For that reason, we must focus on the overall result and not on the headline number. Here's a more aggressive damages number:

The pump and dump scheme, which occured between July and November 2006, has cost one brokerage firm at least $2m in losses. An estimated 60 customers and nine US brokerage firms were identified as victims.

Also, funds seized.

Posted by iang at March 17, 2007 08:05 AM | TrackBack
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