"Stock Trading Whiz Kid" Fined $1.5 Million By SEC For Being a "Paper Trading" Fraud

One of the most amusing "investor" types to emerge as a result of the Fed's 7-year-long attempt to centrally plan the market, has been the infamous 17-year-old "hedge fund" manager, who while not actually trading for lack of cash and, of course, the remotes clue what to do, was happy to advise others of his paper trades on twitter or via newsletters, and collect a fee for such "services." And while it was easy to pretend trade for years and years as long as the Fed injected trillions into the "market", levitating stocks every higher, lately it has been far more difficult, not only for real trader, but also for "paper traders" too.

Case in point, "stock trading whiz kid" Manuel E. Jesus, aka "Manny Backus" - and apparent chess prodigy based on his photo - and his newsletter company Wealthpire Inc.

This is how WealthPire describes, or rather, described itself:

Wealthpire, Inc. was founded by expert trader Manny Backus. Manny had a vision to establish a company that focused on helping the average street-level investor to succeed in the stock market. Manny used his knowledge and expertise to form a company that did just that.

 

Jump 10 years later and Wealthpire has went from just one service with 10 subscribers, to over 8 services with thousands of satisfied customers.

 

Wealthpire, Inc. was recently inducted into the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies.

 

Our headquarters are located in sunny Santa Monica, California.

This whiz kid was so good, he had no problem passing through the extensive vetting protocol of Seeking Alpha:

 

There was just one problem for Manuel Jesus, aka "whiz kid" - he was a fraud, at least according to the SEC, which announced yesterday "that a self-proclaimed “stock trading whiz kid” and his stock newsletter company in Los Angeles have agreed to pay nearly $1.5 million to settle charges that they defrauded subscribers through false statements and misrepresentations."

According to the SEC’s complaint, Manuel E. Jesus and his newsletter company Wealthpire Inc. used advertising materials and websites touting him as “the untutored prodigy of stock investing” under the alias Manny Backus.  A self-purported “math whiz” who boasted a “skyscraping” IQ and training as a professional chess player, Backus claimed to be actively trading in the stock market with “real money” by age 19.  The SEC’s complaint also states that Wealthpire materials claimed that Backus made millions of dollars before “deciding to help other investors” by starting an alert service that let traders copy his every trading move.

The SEC alleged that from at least January 2012 to September 2014, Backus was not trading in the same stocks recommended by his services as he claimed.  He wasn’t the one making all of the recommendations either.  For instance, the SEC’s complaint alleges that Robert C. Joiner was paid by Wealthpire to make all of the stock picks for one alert service without any guidance from Backus on how to choose them.  Joiner allegedly posed as Backus during chat room sessions by signing in using a password that Backus supplied, and Joiner told investors that he was buying and selling certain recommended stocks when no such transactions were actually taking place. 

Even more notable is that Manny, just like countless other comparable fake traders, did nothing but compile a list of "profitable" paper trades, and use that for marketing purposes. Sadly, the list was also fraud.

The SEC’s complaint alleges a series of other misrepresentations to Wealthpire subscribers as well, including false claims about one particular stock alert service that purportedly made historic trading recommendations that yielded huge past returns higher than 1,400 percent.

Investors who subscribe to trading alert services are relying on the purported expertise and success of those making the stock recommendations, but Wealthpire and Backus instead circulated repeated lies and falsehoods,” said Michele Wein Layne, Director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office.

As the SEC said in its charge, it has warned investors that investment newsletters can be - and usually are - tools for fraud, noting in an investor alert for example to beware false performance claims misrepresenting the track record of the newsletter’s investment recommendations and be suspicious if the newsletter does not disclose having received any compensation.

Backus and Wealthpire agreed to pay disgorgement of $1,135,145 plus interest of $112,902, and Backus also must pay a $235,000 penalty.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, Backus, Wealthpire, and Joiner consented to the entry of a final judgment permanently enjoining each of them from future violations of the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws.

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Still, we have to applaud "Backus" work ethic, as criminal as it may have been: the same day he was charged by the SEC, he was already busy blogging.

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What we find most surprising in all of the above is that the SEC is finally cracking down on "paper traders" who fill twitter with their ridiculous "trading recommendations" and sell "trade-along" services, while guaranteeing their clients nothing but losses. If that is the case, there are numerous such services we would be delighted to point out the SEC to, so dear SEC, you know how to reach us.