SEC Charges Two For "meme Stock" Fraud

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission has charged two individuals for fraud regarding “meme stock”, or stocks driven up by social media hype.

According to the watchdog, Florida residents, Suyun Gu and his friend used wash trading to collect “rebate payments” when meme stock first started to move up. According to Reuters, “Gu devised a scheme to illegally profit off of so-called “maker-taker” pricing offered by exchanges, in which resting orders that provide liquidity by executing against other orders receive a rebate payment, by trading options contracts with himself using various brokers.”

The Commission said, “In addition to collecting these ill-gotten rebates, the wash-trading scheme allegedly impacted the market as it skewed the volume in certain option contracts and induced other traders to place trades in otherwise illiquid option contracts.”

By trading with themselves, Gu made $668,000 in rebates from 11,400 trades, while his friend, Yong Lee made $50,000 through 2,300 trades. Gu made more than $1.37 million in the process. In simpler terms, Gu and Lee used the retail interest in the meme-stock and put outrageous options to trade against themselves. The strike price on these stock were, therefore, well below the amount they had underlined. The duo were closed by two brokers but they used VPN services to hide their address and used different accounts to carry on with their shenanigans.

“In addition to substantially contributing to the volume of trading, Gu and Lee’s trading prompted other traders to trade the options that they targeted … in other words, Gu’s and Lee’s wash trading in this contract induced other traders to place trades in an otherwise illiquid option contract,” SEC added.

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