Social Media Influencers Are Charged with Securities Fraud for Pump-and-Dump Stock Scheme

According to the lawsuits, eight influencers earned more than $100 million since January 2020 from illegal stock manipulation on Twitter and Discord.

Department of Justice sign is seen on the building in Washington DC
The Department of Justice charged the influencers. NurPhoto via Getty Images

U.S. regulators charged eight social media influencers for allegedly manipulating stock prices and profiting from it. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Department of Justice filed lawsuits on Dec. 13 and Dec. 7 respectively, seeking $114 million from the defendants.

According to the SEC, seven of the influencers presented themselves as successful stock traders on Twitter and in stock trading chatrooms on Discord since Jan. 2020. They amassed at least 100,000 followers each and allegedly encouraged their followers to buy certain stocks. When the share prices rose, the influencers allegedly sold their shares to earn a profit. The suits say they collectively made more than $100 million.

Some of the defendants wrote in their Twitter bios their tweets were opinions and not to take them as serious trading advice. Twitter and Discord did not respond to a request for comment.

These seven influencers—Perry Matlock, Edward Constantin, Thomas Cooperman, Gary Deel, Mitchell Hennessey, Stefan Hrvatin and John Rybarczyk—were charged with securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud. The last influencer, Daniel Knight, was charged with conspiracy and aiding and abetting. He co-hosted a podcast that presented some of the defendants as stock trading experts and allegedly profited from trading with some of them. Matlock, Cooperman, Deel, Hennessey, Rybarczyk and Knight did not immediately responded to a request for comment. Matlock pleaded not guilty, according to Reuters. Constantin and Hrvatin could not be reached.

Social Media Influencers Are Charged with Securities Fraud for Pump-and-Dump Stock Scheme