The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a Texas-based oil company and its CEO with defrauding investors about reserve estimates and drilling plans, and charged the author of a stock-picking newsletter for his role in a fraudulent promotional campaign encouraging readers to buy the oil company’s penny stock shares.
The SEC alleges that shortly after becoming Norstra Energy’s CEO in March 2013, Glen Landry began making false and misleading claims about business prospects on Norstra’s website as well as in press releases and SEC filings. Landry and Norstra Energy misled investors about the location of the company’s property in order to make the wells appear more promising and twice disclosed an inaccurate date to begin drilling operations to make the potential for oil riches appear imminent.
The SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan alleges that promotional materials issued by Eric Dany falsely proclaimed that “Norstra Energy could be sitting on top of as much as 8.5 billion barrels of oil!” and said the planned wells had a 99 percent chance of profitability. After the exaggerated statements about its property and prospects caused Norstra Energy’s stock price to increase nearly 600 percent in a three-month period, the SEC suspended trading in June 2013.
“When microcap companies appear to be misleading the investing public, the SEC investigates those promoting the stock as well as the culpability of company officers,” said Michael Paley, Co-Chair of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Microcap Fraud Task Force. “We allege that as a longtime geologist, Landry was well aware that Norstra Energy did not have the oil reserves or drilling plans being touted to investors. And as a self-proclaimed expert in oil-and-gas stocks, Dany knew that claims made about the company were false but touted the stock anyway in a spam e-mail campaign and a hard-copy mailer he was paid to endorse.”
The SEC’s complaint charges Norstra Energy, Landry, and Dany with fraud and seeks final judgments ordering permanent injunctions, return of allegedly ill-gotten gains with interest, and financial penalties. The SEC also seeks to bar Landry from serving as an officer or director of a public company or participating in a penny stock offering.
The SEC’s investigation has been conducted by Yitzchok Klug and Michael Paley of the Microcap Fraud Task Force along with Christopher Castano and Nancy Brown in the New York Regional Office. The SEC’s litigation will be led by Ms. Brown, and the case is being supervised by Sanjay Wadhwa.