Sharesleuth.com describes itself as an “independent Web-based reporting aimed at exposing securities fraud and corporate chicanery… Call it journalism. Call it investigative blogging. Call it what you will.”
We’ll call it “ironic,” given that the SEC has just filed insider-trading charges against Sharesleuth’s main backer, tech billionaire Mark Cuban.
The SEC alleges that Cuban sold his 6% stake in Canadian-based Internet search company Mamma.com in 2004, after being told by management that it was going to announce a PIPE financing. According to the SEC, Cuban, who has called PIPE financings “a huge red flag,” almost immediately called his broker and told him to sell his entire 6 percent stake in Mamma.com — despite that the company’s announcement hadn’t yet been made public.
That call saved Cuban more than $750,000, says the government. The day after Mamma.com went public with its plans, shares in the company dropped by 9 percent.
Cuban’s attorneys say that he wasn’t told the PIPE offering was to be kept in confidence. Sounds like Cuban, who made his fortune when Yahoo bought his company Broadcast.com in 1999, could be facing an uphill battle, however. The complaint suggests that the government has detailed phone records to bolster its case, including that just prior to Cuban’s sale, Mamma.com’s CEO emailed Cuban, asking him to call him as soon as possible. Cuban called four minutes later, and they spoke for “eight minutes and thirty-five seconds.”
The SEC says that during the call, Cuban became furious that his stake would be diluted, and threatened to dump his shares, information Mamma.com’s CEO shared with the company’s board. The CEO then emailed Cuban telling him if he wanted more information on the offering to call Mamma.com’s adviser. They spoke for “eight minutes,” according to the SEC’s complaint. Afterward, says the complaint, Cuban called his broker and told him to “just get me out the next day.”
Update: Cuban has responded on his blog.