On Monday an account under the name “ASIC” posted a message in the “ASX Pump Organization” on Telegram to warn around 300 members of the group that “we’re monitoring this platform and we may be investigating you.”:
“Coordinated pumping of shares for profits can be illegal. We can see all trades and have access to trader identities. […] You run the risk of a criminal record, including fines of more than $1 million and prison time.”
Many of the group’s members assumed the account to be fake, however ASIC confirmed the validity of the now-deleted message to The Australian newspaper.
While some members of the community have laughed off the message from ASIC, others have vented their frustrations at being targeted instead of firms and corporate traders.
“What ASIC needs to do is go after the corporates who inside trade and short companies all the time, and not spend valuable time here hassling 300 small investors who are doing nothing wrong by sharing stock recommendations. This has to be the biggest joke in history,” a member wrote.
On Sept. 23 ASIC published a warning about a “concerning trend” of social media groups engaging in “blatant” pump and dump campaigns. It stated that “in some cases, posts on social media forums may mislead subscribers by suggesting the activity is legal,” before warning of prison sentences of up to 15 years and fines of more than $1 million.
“ASIC has been working closely with market operators to identify and disrupt pump and dump campaigns, and we will continue to target actions that threaten the integrity of markets and to take enforcement action where appropriate,” said ASIC Commissioner Cathie Armour as part of the release.
Crypto-based pump and dumps weren’t specifically targeted by ASIC, however a spokesperson for the regulator told Cointelegraph:
“The campaign is targeting listed stocks but the messaging is relevant for all financial products, including any crypto assets that may be, or involves, financial products.”
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“Even where the activity relates to cryptocurrencies/products that may not be financial products under the Corporations Act, the pump and dump practice is concerning as it can lead to investor losses and create unnecessary price volatility,” the representative added.
Pump and dump groups have grown in popularity this year after the r/wallstreetbets and Robinhood saga in January. The Reddit group —which is admittedly more about the pump than the dump — collectively worked together to pump stocks that hedge funds were shorting against such as GameStop (GME) and AMC Entertainment (AMC).