Wednesday, January 4, 2012
The SEC charged Anthony Fields, an Illinois investment adviser, with offering to sell fictitious securities on LinkedIn and issued two alerts in an agency-wide effort to highlight the risks investors and advisory firms face when using social media. According to the SEC, Fields offered more than $500 billion in fictitious securities through various social media websites. For example, he used LinkedIn discussions to promote fictitious “bank guarantees” and “medium-term notes.” The postings resulted in interest from multiple purported potential buyers.
According to the SEC’s order instituting administrative proceedings against Fields, he made multiple fraudulent offers through his two sole proprietorships – Anthony Fields & Associates (AFA) and Platinum Securities Brokers. Fields provided false and misleading information concerning AFA’s assets under management, clients, and operational history to the public through its website and in SEC filings. Fields also failed to maintain required books and records, did not implement adequate compliance policies and procedures, and held himself out to be a broker-dealer while he was not registered with the SEC.
The SEC also issued an Investor Alert titled “Social Media and Investing: Avoiding Fraud” prepared by the Office of Investor Education and Advocacy. The alert aims to help investors be better aware of fraudulent investment schemes that use social media, and provides tips for checking the backgrounds of advisers and brokers. A new Investor Bulletin titled “Social Media and Investing: Understanding Your Accounts” contains best practices including privacy settings, security tips, and password selection aimed to help social media users protect their personal information and avoid fraud.