The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged three individuals with insider trading in advance of an announcement by Long Blockchain Company (formerly known as Long Island Iced Tea Co.) that it was going to “pivot” from its existing beverage business to blockchain technology, which caused the company’s stock price to soar.
According to the SEC’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Eric Watson, an undisclosed control person of Long Blockchain who helped drive this business change within the company and signed a confidentiality agreement not to disclose the company’s business plans, tipped his friend and broker, Oliver Barret-Lindsay, of such plans, including by sharing with him a draft of the company’s press release. Barret-Lindsay, in turn, allegedly passed the material nonpublic information on to his friend, Gannon Giguiere. Within hours of receiving this confidential information, Giguiere purchased 35,000 shares of Long Blockchain stock. According to the complaint, the company’s stock price skyrocketed after the press release was issued, spiking more than 380% intraday. Within two hours of the announcement, Giguiere sold his shares for over $160,000 in illicit profits.
“The SEC remains committed to preventing all types of fraudulent conduct in connection with purported ‘crypto’ companies, including profiting from trading on material non-public information,” said Richard R. Best, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office.
The SEC’s complaint charges Watson, Barret-Lindsay, and Giguiere with violating Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and seeks permanent injunctions and civil penalties as to all defendants, and, additionally, an officer and director bar as to Watson.
The SEC previously charged Barret-Lindsay and Giguiere in connection with their alleged role in a stock manipulation scheme, which is currently in litigation. Both Lindsay and Giguiere pled guilty to criminal charges in connection with that matter. Additionally, the Commission revoked the registration of Long Blockchain’s securities on Feb. 19, 2021, pursuant to Section 12(j) of the Exchange Act.
The SEC’s investigation has been conducted by Lindsay S. Moilanen, Mark R. Sylvester, Diego Brucculeri, John O. Enright, and Sheldon L. Pollock, and the litigation will be led by Ms. Moilanen and Mr. Sylvester. The case is being supervised by Sanjay Wadhwa.