The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has sanctioned broker Douglas Cmelik(Cmelik) concerning allegations that Cmelik improperly marked order tickets for penny stock purchases as “unsolicited” when the purchases were solicited. Cmelik’s conduct allegedly violated NASD Conduct Rule 3110 and FINRA Rule 2010.
Penny stocks are securities that carry significant investment risks. A “penny stock” is defined by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as a security issued by a company with less than $100 million in market capitalization. Penny stocks are also often called “low-priced securities” because they typically trade at less than $5 per share. Many penny stocks are very thinly traded and consequently liquidity for the stock can vary day-to-day.
Penny stocks are typically not suitable for many retail investors and consequently many firms prohibit their advisors from soliciting investments in these issuers. First, penny stocks may trade infrequently or very thinly making it difficult to liquidate a penny stock holding. Consequently, penny stocks often fluctuate wildly day-to-day. Penny stocks are often the target of unscrupulous individuals for fraudulent purposes. One scheme employed is the “pump and dump” scheme. In a pump and dump scheme, an unfounded hype for a penny stock the pumper already owns is created to boost the stock price temporarily. The penny stock pumper then sells their shares for a profit causing intense downward pressure on the penny stock and the security quickly loses value. The defrauded investors suffer huge losses as a result of the scheme.