SEC charges lawyer with issuing fraudulent opinion letters
Newscast Media WASHINGTON— The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a California-based lawyer who has been fraudulently churning out baseless legal opinion letters for penny stocks through his website without researching and evaluating the individual stock offerings.
Legal opinion letters are issued to transfer agents on behalf of holders of restricted stock seeking to sell the stock freely in the public markets. Transfer agents typically require a lawyer’s opinion explaining the legal basis for lifting the restriction on the stock and allowing it to be freely traded.
The SEC alleges that Brian Reiss of Huntington Beach, Calif., set up 144letters.com to promote his legal opinion letter business and advertise “volume discount” rates while noting “penny stocks not a problem.” Reiss steered potential customers to his website by making bids on search terms through Google’s AdWords, and then relied on a computer-generated template to draft his opinion letters within minutes absent any true analysis of the facts behind each stock offering. The letters from Reiss ultimately made false and misleading statements and facilitated the sale of securities in violation of the registration provisions of the federal securities laws.
“Reiss flouted his responsibilities as a gatekeeper in the issuance of stock, and churned out opinion letters to make a quick buck,” said Andrew M. Calamari, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. “Attorneys who act as gatekeepers in our markets have a solemn responsibility to ensure that they provide accurate information to the marketplace.”
The SEC acknowledges the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).