NYC taxi medallion baron compensated for news stories to enhance inventory price, SEC claims

The brash manager of a New York City taxi medallion financial institution secretly paid for favorable news tales about his battling corporation in a bid to enhance its inventory rate, in accordance to a Wednesday fraud complaint from the Securities and Exchange Fee. 

Andrew Murstein, the 57-year-previous president and main functioning officer of Manhattan-based Medallion Fiscal Corp., allegedly came up with the plan as the increase of Uber and Lyft prompted buyers to sour on taxi-relevant stocks. 

In a bid to adjust investors’ minds, the SEC claims, Murstein hatched a approach: using the services of media strategists to produce posts boosting his organization with out disclosing that they were currently being paid out. The strategists then applied fake names to position at least 50 articles or blog posts about Medallion Monetary on web pages such as Looking for Alpha, TheStreet, HuffPost and Crain’s New York Business from 2014 to 2017, according to the grievance. 

“Murstein allegedly paid out for a lot more than 50 articles or blog posts and hundreds of good feedback, which ended up really paid out advertisements placed throughout the world-wide-web in an effort and hard work to deceive investors about the value of Medallion’s inventory,” SEC New York regional director Richard Best explained.

Quite a few of the blogs were being individually edited and tweaked by Murstein, according to the complaint. Murstein also pressured accountants into supplying Medallion Fiscal a increased valuation than it deserved, the SEC mentioned. 

Shares of Medallion Financial on Wednesday shut down far more than 21 per cent to conclude buying and selling at $6.67 every.

Medallion Fiscal helped revolutionize the taxi market by making risky medallion financial loans to small-cash flow motorists.
Bloomberg by using Getty Pictures

Murstein’s business, which went general public in 1996 and served revolutionize the taxi market by making risky medallion financial loans to low-revenue drivers, observed its shares trade north of $17 as just lately as 2013. 

The business made Murstein and his father extraordinarily rich. The duo raked in additional than $42 million from 2002 to 2014, in accordance to the New York Moments. Murstein expended lavishly, choosing Nicki Minaj to perform at his son’s 2015 bar mitzvah as Medallion Money purchased up professional lacrosse and Nascar groups, the paper documented. The company’s Nascar motor vehicle was painted like a taxi. 

But as New Yorkers commenced flocking to Uber and Lyft, the worth of medallions — which give holders the proper to drive yellow cabs in the town — tanked. Buyers then soured on Medallion Financial’s shares, sending them as very low as $2 at just one issue in 2017. 

“Under force to do a thing, Murstein violated the federal securities laws,” the SEC mentioned. 

In a statement to The Article, a spokesperson for Medallion Financial said the corporation designs to “vigorously protect towards the SEC’s unfounded expenses and are self-assured we will be entirely vindicated.” 

The spokesperson did not deny that Murstein  — who also sits on the board of the Javits Centre — secretly paid for content articles but explained the conduct was in “good religion.”

“The steps in concern occurred five or a lot more yrs back at a time when small sellers ended up engaged in an on the internet marketing campaign to travel down the Company’s stock value for their particular revenue by spreading deceptive and disparaging facts and misrepresenting its organization,” the spokesperson explained.

“Medallion sought only to deliver the sector with an exact knowledge of the Company’s monetary placement and potential customers and an acceptable and clear valuation of Medallion Bank and its other belongings.” 

“None of the allegations in the SEC criticism offers rise to a securities violation,” the spokesperson added.

Medallion Financial denied breaking the law.
Corbis by using Getty Photographs

The SEC is seeking permanent injunctions, disgorgement moreover prejudgment curiosity, and civil penalties against Medallion Money, Murstein and Lawrence Meyers — a California PR professional who allegedly wrote some of the fraudulent posts. 

In addition, the SEC wishes Murstein to be barred from serving as an officer or director of any community organization. 

The SEC criticism also mentioned that in 2016 a Write-up reporter confronted Murstein about allegations that he paid writers to raise his company underneath fake names in possible violation of securities rules. Murstein denied to The Publish that he was dependable for the articles or blog posts, the complaint states.

Soon immediately after The Article contacted Murstein, he inked an settlement with the contractor who had written some of the article content, paying out her $15,000 in “hush money” to “falsely affirm” that she was by no means requested to publish articles or blog posts about Medallion Monetary underneath a pretend title, in accordance to the SEC. 

Of the web pages that allegedly posted the professional-Medallion Monetary site posts, none responded to The Post’s requests for remark besides for HuffPost, which claimed that a contributor posting beneath the names Jayme Stanley and Sarah Frigo wrote for the site’s web site system, but was not an worker and wasn’t paid out. “Their views and steps to not symbolize HuffPost,” Lizzie Grams, a HuffPost spokeswoman, mentioned.

Meyers, who was reportedly compensated $65,000 for serving to Murstein, could not be attained. 

The plunging price of medallions has also had a devastating outcome person cabbies, at least a few of whom found them selves deeply in financial debt to loan providers and killed themselves in modern several years. Just after decades of protests from motorists, Mayor Monthly bill de Blasio unveiled an arrangement in November that will cap medallion financial loans at $170,000.