The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said Friday it has temporarily suspended trading in three very tiny stocks due to questions about their cryptocurrency-related announcements.
The companies announced in January that they each acquired several thousand trust units in a private equity fund called “NVC Fund” with investments related to blockchain and cryptocurrency.
However, those investments appear quite limited. A quick look at public information on the companies and the fund also raises a host of other concerns.
First, the three companies, Cherubim Interests (CHIT), PDX Partners (PDXP, formerly “My Social Income”) and Victura Construction (VICT), all list the same chief executive officer in January press releases: Patrick J. Johnson.
His statements in three separate releases about the private equity investment are also worded exactly the same, with a grammatical error.
Johnson did not immediately respond to CNBC requests for comment. Phone numbers listed on the websites of Victura and PDXP were not in service and the number listed for Cherubim had a machine recording for Victura. An email to Victura also bounced back.
The three stocks, which are traded over the counter, each have a market capitalization of less than $5 million, according to FactSet. PDX says it is a telecom company, while Victura states it is a holding company for the construction industry and Cherubim says it is an alternative construction and real estate development company. Each share had a value of $0 on Friday, according to FactSet.
Second, the companies all announced in January the acquisition of trust units in private equity fund NVC that claims to be exponentially larger than Blackstone.
“NVC Fund” is a private equity fund that invests in “Blockchain Technology, Fintech Cryptocurrency” and other various industries, according to the press releases.
“We have a block of assets that we digitize,” Frank Ekejija, head of NVC, said in a phone interview with CNBC on Friday. He said the company also has an “NVC Fund Coin” for an internal platform.
Ekejija said he did not have any direct comment on the SEC trading suspension and that the agreement to acquire trust units in NVC has not concluded yet.
NVC Fund Holding Trust lists “Reverend Frank Ekejija” as its chairman, trustee and CEO and also states Ekejija holds an MA and MBA from Northfield University. The degrees are not listed on his LinkedIn profile page.
Ekejija said he holds the degrees and the website has not been updated since 2004. He also said NVC Fund has $10 trillion in assets under management, which would be more than the whole private equity industry.
Blackstone, a leading private equity firm, had $434 billion in assets under management at the end of last year.
Third, one of the companies the SEC suspended trading in, Cherubim Interests, is involved with a sale of a new digital coin. A whitepaper shows the coin is backed by a company led by “Elder Jeffre Saint James, D. PSc, MBA, ordained minister, and a Service Disabled Veteran.”
Saint James does not list any education on his LinkedIn profile page. His company, the Saint James Holdings and Investment Company Trust, did not immediately respond to a CNBC phone call, and an email to the provided address bounced back.
Cherubim said in a Jan. 3 release that it has executed a financing commitment of $100 million to launch an initial coin offering for “The Self-Sustaining Intentional Communities Coin (Symbol SJT).”
“The sale of the coins will generate capital to create self-sustaining intentional communities across the US and across 57 nations,” the release said. “Municipal and rural infrastructures may be improved through the investment into eco-friendly housing and businesses that create products and services for the benefits of the community and to consumers.”
The SEC added in Friday’s release that it suspended trading in Cherubim shares “because of its delinquency in filing annual and quarterly reports.”
Trading in all three stocks is suspended until midnight on March 2.
“This is a reminder that investors should give heightened scrutiny to penny stock companies that have switched their focus to the latest business trend, such as cryptocurrency, blockchain technology, or initial coin offerings,” Michele Wein Layne, director of the Los Angeles regional office for the commission, said in a statement.
Friday’s announcement is the latest in an increasing number of trading suspensions and SEC actions against companies involved with initial coin offerings and cryptocurrencies.