The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has announced that it barred broker George E. Johnson from the securities industry for allegedly engaging in manipulation of stock trading, and for committing fraud. FINRA also imposed a 6-month suspension against a second broker, Joseph Mahalick, and a 2 year suspension against a supervisor, Christopher Wayne. All three individuals are reported to have worked at the time for the brokerage firm Meyers Associates, L.P. out of the firm’s Chicago, Illinois office. Mr. Johnson has been working for and was registered by Newport Coast Securities, Inc. from April 2013.
FINRA’s Order stated that during May 2012, Mr. Johnson manipulated the market for the common stock of IceWEB, Inc. (OTCBB: IWEB) by soliciting customers to buy the stock while also soliciting other customers to sell at increasingly higher and artificially inflated prices and frequently effecting matched orders among his own customers. Before and during this time, FINRA’s Order set forth that Mr. Johnson distributed to his clients misleading research and sales materials concerning IWEB, and failed to disclose material information.
The Order alleged that Mr. Johnson first became involved with IWEB when his employer acted as a placement agent for the company, and that he continued to recommend the stock to his clients through private placements and in the open market, despite the company having years of financial issues. At the time, IWEB stock was valued at around .12/share, and the Order alleged that Mr. Johnson solicited purchases and sales in the stock to artificially increase the share price to .17/share, allegedly for the purpose of earning placement agent business from IWEB to earn substantial placement fees.