Playing the stock market can be very lucrative. That’s especially true if you know how to work the system. Unfortunately, there are some people over the course of history who have done just that. They’ve played the stock market, effectively ripping people off. Sometimes to the tune of millions of dollars. Want to know more? Here are some major stock market crimes throughout history.
Back in the 1990s, it was just as easy to catch Gold Fever as it is today. That’s why everyone was so thrilled when Bre-X, a Canadian company, announced that they’d discovered the end of the rainbow.
Bre-X owned property in Indonesia, which they said held over 200 million ounces. Upon the announcement, Bre-X stock skyrocketed. The new price was $280, and those who owned Bre-X stock literally became millionaires overnight.
Unfortunately, Bre-X was lying. The truth began to come to light when geologist Michael de Guzman reportedly committed suicide. The body was found several days later, and it appeared that the death wasn’t self-inflicted, after all. Investigation commenced, and it was discovered that the mine was fraudulent.
Bre-X stock price plummeted to mere pennies just as quickly as it had risen. Unfortunately, this stock market crime carried casualties.
Unless you were hiding under a large rock in 2001, you’ve heard of Enron. This Houston-based energy company dominated the news in the early part of the decade as Enron executives’ white collar crimes became evident.
For years, Enron had “cooked the books” to keep from revealing millions of dollars of debt. They used shell companies to hide the debt, and as a result they were able to report financial stability, even success.
At the beginning of the Enron drama, share prices were listed at over $90. But as the deceit unfolded, they tumbled to just $.70.
Madoff Investment Securities
Just as you’ve likely heard of Enron, you’ve probably heard the name “Bernie Madoff.” Bernard Madoff, founder of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, ran one of the biggest stock market crimes in history.
In 2008, Madoff began what’s called a Ponzi scheme. In short, a Ponzi scheme is an “investment strategy” which promises high returns in a short time with little risk to investors.
How did he do it? Quite simply. Bernie Madoff was, in fact, seeing losses to his hedge fund. But he kept those losses hidden by paying investors with the investments of other investors. Sound smart? Kind of. This was a scam that lasted 15 years. But the gig was up in 2008 when his own kids turned him in. He was sentenced to 150 years in prison.
Centennial Technologies, Inc.
In perhaps one of the most creative stock market crimes throughout history, Centennial Technologies recorded $2 million in revenues. The company claimed they were selling computer chips, a hot commodity back in the 90s.
What were they really doing? Selling fruit baskets. Centennial employees were shipping fruit baskets to customers, then created fraudulent sales records. During that time, the stock price rose to $55.50, a 450% increase.
The SEC investigated the company and CEO Emanuel Pinez was arrested. Investors had lost over $150 million, and the CEO was sentenced to five years in prison.