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Riot Blockchain tumbles after expose raises concerns over share manipulation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 February, 2018, 3:41am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 February, 2018, 3:43am

Riot Blockchain Inc shares tumbled as much as 34 per cent on Friday after CNBC broadcast a report suggesting the rebranding of the former biotech-equipment maker was done to enrich the people who control the company.

The shares had more than quadrupled to as high as US$46.20 after the company changed its name from Bioptix Inc in October and said it would focus on cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. 

But the euphoria didn’t last long and the stock has lost more than half of its value since Bitcoin’s December 18 peak, on concern the company isn’t doing much more than issuing press releases. The shares fell to as low as $11.36 in New York trading Friday.

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CNBC raised a series of red flags, including Riot Chief Executive Officer John O’Rourke’s sale of 869,000 shares less than three months after the name change. O’Rourke had previously said the sale was for tax purposes.

“This was a garbage, biased hit piece,” O’Rourke wrote in an e-mailed response to a Bloomberg News request for comments. 

“I have never felt better about our business, our assets, and our positioning at the forefront of blockchain technology.”

Riot said yesterday it entered into an agreement to acquire Bitcoin mining equipment. It announced plans last week to launch a digital-currency exchange and a futures brokerage.

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The CNBC report also chronicled the involvement of investor Barry Honig, who accumulated 700,000 warrants which he could convert to stock at US$3.56 a share.

He also acquired 700,000 promissory notes that he could convert to stock at US$2.50 a share, CNBC said, citing SEC filings. The move proved prescient as the stock shot over US$40 - until Friday’s slump.

CNBC asked Honig if he’s “still manipulating stocks” after citing that he was fined US$25,000 in 2000 and suspended 10 days by regulators, to what he said, “the answer the answer is no. I’m a successful investor.“