Exclusive: Secondary trading probe grows

March 13, 2012, 11:44 PM UTC
Fortune


Larry Albukerk

The private markets could get yet another black eye.

Bloomberg reported yesterday the the SEC is expected to file charges against SharesPost and Felix Investments, for activities related to trades of shares in private companies like Facebook. Fortune has learned that the SEC also is interested in a third firm, EB Exchange Funds, and that it may already have reached a settlement.

Each case seems to be a bit different. SharesPost reportedly will be accused of operating as a broker-dealer without having first obtained a broker-dealer license, while Felix Investments is reported to be in trouble for improper solicitation of investors.

According to a source familiar with the situation, the SEC’s interest in EB relates to pricing. It’s tricky, because the firm’s exchange fund products basically are comprised of shareholders in hot private companies, who contribute shares rather than cash. EB is the one that values those shares upon acquisition, with theoretical incentive to mark stock higher if the investor is less enthusiastic, and also sells the shares via private transactions.

Our source says that the SEC believes there may have been discrepancies between sale prices and ultimate distributions to investors, and that the Agency has already reached a settlement with EB and its CEO Larry Albukerk (who has a pretty good reputation in the secondary markets).

When reached by phone, Albukerk declined to confirm or deny the settlement. An SEC spokesman also declined to comment.

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