Washington, D.C. — Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) today requested the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigate possible illegal manipulation of stock prices in Northwest Biotherapeutics, a biotechnology company developing cancer treatment drugs. Strategically released blog posts by well-known biotech stock analyst and senior columnist for TheStreet.com Adam Feuerstein seem designed to cause the price of the company’s stock to fall at times when short sellers were financially overexposed. CREW has asked the SEC and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York to conduct a full investigation of the timing of Mr. Feuerstein’s posts and their relationship to short seller financial interests.
“When several drug companies repeatedly see big stock price dips due to a negative articles published at critical moments — especially when those dips benefit the financial interests of short sellers — it should raise serious questions at the SEC. Given the suspicious timing of Mr. Feuerstein’s articles, which include misinformation and innuendo, there should be an inquiry into whether there was a deliberate effort to manipulate the market for profit,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said.
CREW’s request for an investigation highlights several examples where Mr. Feuerstein’s blog posts and Twitter communications appear intended to send the stock prices plummeting of three pharmaceutical companies — Northest Biotherapeutics, GTx, and Mannkind — at a time when short shares were at a peak.
On June 18, 2014, Northwest Biotherapeutics’ stock was trading at $8.97, a near record high for the stock. Prior reporting from SmithonStocks.com noted the “intense shorting program” aimed at the company’s stock and that the rising stock prices set the stage for a “major short squeeze.” The following morning, before trading began, Mr. Feuerstein posted a series of tweets hinting the company had received bad news related to testing of its promising cancer drug. He then posted a blog item criticizing the company for releasing interim testing data, and quoting a doctor not involved with the study who suggested the company’s release of data was both highly unusual and inappropriate. As a result, by the close of trading on June 19, the stock lost 20 percent of its value and has continued to slide.
CREW’s letter to the SEC also notes similar suspicious timing related to Mr. Feuerstein’s reporting on drug companies GTx and Mannkind. As GTx’s stock reached near-record levels in July 2013, Mr. Feuerstein published an article predicting the failure of a critical drug trial, citing an unnamed short seller as a source. Mr. Feuerstein refused to correct the multiple errors in his article despite a point-by-point refutation by a GTx investor posted on seekingalpha.com. Similarly, in March 2014, Mr. Feuerstein published an article predicting a 60-percent chance the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would reject the company’s new drug, Afrezza. By the end of the day, Mannkind’s shares were trading at a 10-month low. Contrary to Mr. Feurstein’s prognostication, on April 1, an FDA advisory committee granted marketing approval for Afreeza by a vote of 13 to 1.
“Where there is smoke, there’s often fire. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that Mr. Feuerstein’s unduly negative articles appear at critical moments for these companies, but it certainly merits an investigation,” Ms. Sloan said.
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