Two New Jersey traders have been charged with making more than $25 million in illegal profits by coordinating trading in dozens of brokerage accounts to manipulate the prices of more than 2,000 stocks.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said Joseph Taub, 37, and Elazar Shmalo, 21, engaged in a “massive” market manipulation scheme, creating the false appearance of trading activity in particular stocks so they could purchase the securities at artificially low prices and then quickly sell them at artificially high prices for substantial profits.
Between 2014 and 2015, the SEC said in a civil complaint, they made at least 23,000 coordinated trades in at least 36 accounts, generating net profits, averaging approximately $1,400, from more than 80% of those trades.
Taub and Shmalo were also arrested Monday on parallel criminal charges of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. The SEC is seeking a permanent injunction as well as the return of ill-gotten gains plus interest and penalties.
“As alleged in our complaint, Taub and Shmalo schemed dozens of times per trading day to artificially move stock prices for their personal benefit,” Andrew M. Calamari, director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office, said in a news release.
According to the SEC, Taub was the “principal orchestrator” of the scheme, providing most of the funds for the brokerage accounts and instructing Shmalo as to how to execute the trades. Shmalo generally received 30% to 35% of the net profits, with Taub pocketing the remainder, the SEC said.
In a typical manipulation, the commission alleged, the defendants used a “helper” account to place multiple small orders in a stock to create upward or downward pressure on the stock price and a “winner” account to purchase and sell larger quantities of stocks at prices that had been affected by the manipulative orders in the helper account.
Taub and Shmalo allegedly targeted stocks with low trading volumes because it was easier to manipulate their prices and concealed the illicit trading by holding the helper and winner accounts at different clearing firms.