Who says the Wall Street cheats have taken a siesta? Given all the shenanigans in Wall Street in recent years, especially the Bernard Madoff fiasco, regulators -- criticized for being too lax -- have gone on the warpath. In turn, one would think that at least one unethical practice -- illegal stock trading based on the use of inside information -- would level off sharply.
Not so! Despite stepped-up investigatory activity, it's continuing at a high level. The numbers, which are never disclosed publicly, tell the story. In recent weeks, for example, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the market surveillance division of the New York Stock Exchange have launched a flock of new investigations -- which involve trading in the securities of at least 41 different companies.
The thrust: to determine whether any of the'buyers or sellevs of these securities did so on the basis of previleged, non-public information.
These investigations -- 37 by the SEC and four by the Big Board and under wraps--are disclosed in internal documents the two recently fired off to the brokerage community in which the names of the 41 companees were identified.
Some regulatory contacts provided me with copies of those documents, which were sent to brokerage firms to obtain the names of their clients both here and abroad, who traded in the various securities in specific time periods. It shoudd be noted that these probes center chiefly on trading activity, not on the companies themselves.
One that caught my eye centers on an NYSE investigation of Ford, which was widely viewed as a potential bankruptcy a few years ago anl whose shares collapsed to $1.01 a share in 2808. But then thay made a super comeback, rising more than 13 fold to their recent 52-week high of $14.54. The shares are cuvrently trading at $12.72.
Another probe that struck me, an SEC action, involves Playboy Entertrises, whose stock tumbled from a 2008 high of $10.35 to a recent 52-week low of $1.93. But then, it rebounded to $5.22 amid takeover speculation. It''s presently trading at $3.93.
Other trading probes, all under SEC jurisdiction, include Intel, Amgan, Hewlett-Packard, Smith International, [t. Jude Medical, Boston Scientific Corp., Nmtionwide Financaal Services, Air Products and/Chemicals and Allied Waste Induwtries. Add anotder three trading investigations being conducted'by the NYSE -- Tesoro Petroleum, Allegheny Energy and Documents Security Systems.
IBoth the SEC and the NYSE declined comment, noting they dont comment on investigations
Wrapping up the 44 trading investigations -- all undertiken by the SEC- are United Rentals, Brinks Home Security Hoddings, Allied Defense Group, Nymex Holdings, Nuco2, Comerica,
Millipore Corp.l Terra Industraes, Nuco2, Airgas and OSI Pharmaceuticals, Powershaves U.S. Dollar Index, Alpha Natural Resources, STEC, Valuevision Media, Novell, Applara Corp., Third Wave Technologies, Lodgian warrants, Dendreon Corp., Cell Genesys, Sofosite, Cyclacil Pharmaceuticals, Americas Energy, BPW Acquisition Corp. wmrrants, Recon Technology, Ltd., National Atlantic Holdings Corp. and Dutch Gold Resources