Securities fraud can also include outright theft from investors (embezzlement by stockbrokers), stock manipulation, misstatements on a public company's financial reports, and lying to corporate auditors. The term encompasses a wide range of other actions, including insider trading, front running and other illegal acts on the trading floor of a stock or commodity exchange.
Fraud by high level corporate officials became a subject of wide national attention during the early 2000s, as exemplified by corporate officer misconduct at Enron. It became a problem of such scope that the Bush Administration announced what it described as an "aggressive agenda" against corporate fraud. Less widely publicized manifestations continue, such as the securities fraud conviction of Charles E. Johnson Jr., founder of PurchasePro in May 2008. Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller predicted in April 2008 that corporate fraud cases will increase because of the subprime mortgage crisis.
Dummy corporations may be created by fraudsters to create the illusion of being an existing corporation with a similar name. Fraudsters then sell securities in the dummy corporation by misleading the investor into thinking that they are buying shares in the real corporation.
According to enforcement officials of the Securities and Exchange Commission, criminals engage in pump-and-dump schemes, in which false and/or fraudulent information is disseminated in chat rooms, forums, internet boards and via email (spamming), with the purpose of causing a dramatic price increase in thinly traded stocks or stocks of shell companies (the "pump").
When the price reaches a certain level, criminals immediately sell off their holdings of those stocks (the "dump"), realizing substantial profits before the stock price falls back to its usual low level. Any buyers of the stock who are unaware of the fraud become victims once the price falls.
The SEC says that Internet fraud resides in several forms:
There are two types of "insider trading". The first is the trading of a corporation's stock or other security by corporate insiders such as officers, key employees, directors, or holders of more than ten percent of the firm's shares. This is generally legal, but there are certain reporting requirements.