Stock scams

Recently I purchased some Apple stock. When I was going over my financials this morning, Quicken had a news item entitled “QUAN to offer upgrade alternative to 117 million iPad users.” As an iPad user, I was interested, and the story said “Quantum International is working on a protective iPad case that will add storage capacity, battery life, and connectivity.” I didn’t really register the “connectivity” initially, so I was thinking battery case and wifi drive.

Next, I went looking for a tech article on this, since if they’re putting out press releases it had probably hit someplace like Gizmodo, and I could get more details. All I could find were press releases, pages and pages of them. So I looked up QUAN.

Stock Price: $0.09. Market Capitalization: $28,300 (that’s the full value, not “thousands.”) Number of employees: 1. Company description says it’s a “alternative energy” company, named “National Clean Fuels” until January 2012, when it changed its name to “Quantum International.” Incorporated in Houston, Texas. No SEC filings.

It’s some guy in Texas doing a pump-and-dump scheme on a non-existent company. The stock price history is clearly screwy, since it shows stock prices in the $563,000 range back in 2005, with a volume of zero. I suspect the highest it’s ever been is $2.50 in March 2012, since there seem to be some actual trades back then. Since there was considerable volume traded at ~$2, I suspect he issued 300,000 shares, dumped them, bought them back, and is now hoping to pump the price again. Pure speculation on my part, of course.

How is it possible for such a tiny company to issue public stock? Isn’t that regulated?

Yes, they still fall under the SEC. It’s an Over The Counter Bulletin Board stock, meaning that you can’t buy it through a stock exchange, only through a network of dealers. You want shares in it, you call someone who can get those shares for you. I don’t know what it takes to be listed, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the requirements are much like those of forming a privately held corporation. That is, just a few forms an a few dollars to the state.

I had a chapter-S corporation back in the late 80’s, and that involved issuing shares to the two principles. In theory I could have sold some or all of those shares to someone else. In practice, it was just a way of dealing with distributing the income from the shareware I’d written, and reporting it for taxes.