In the latest apparent spoof on a U.S.
securities regulator's online filing system, a Chicago-area
artist with a fondness for inspirational quotes claimed to have
acquired about $88 billion worth of Bank of America Corp
shares on Wednesday.
The filing did not appear to influence the stock price of
the second-largest U.S. bank, which joins companies including
Avon Products Inc, Integrated Device Technology Inc
and Berkshire Hathaway Inc to have had fake
filings attached to their ticker symbols on the U.S. Securities
and Exchange Commission's Edgar system.
While the SEC did not respond to a request for comment and
Bank of America declined to comment, securities experts said
there was no doubt the filing was a hoax.
In it, a company called YNOFACE Holdings Inc purportedly run
by Antonio Lee said it had acquired 798.4 million Bank of
America shares in an exchange on Aug. 15, and purchased another
4.2 billion common shares and 100 million preferred shares on
The common shares alone would represent nearly half the
bank's total market cap. Bank of America's largest shareholder,
The Vanguard Group, has roughly 610 million shares, a stake of
less than 6 percent.
In an earlier filing, YNOFACE said it had implausibly raised
over $1 trillion for an art fund.
A quick Google search for Lee found several promotional
sites describing him as a "world renowned artist, and YouTube
celebrity specializing in acrylic painting."
A YouTube account characterizes YNOFACE as a company that
"acquires, markets, and holds original art as a capital
appreciation investment based off the fundamental metrics."
Lee's Twitter posts showcase colorful paintings of a beach,
elephants in love and a naked person with a bird's head, along
with quotes like, "When an artist follows their intuition &
dreams, society can only benefit." Its avatar is a painting of a
man with a big red question mark over his face.
Reuters' attempts to reach Lee were unsuccessful.
While Bank of America appeared unscathed by the apparent
scam, past phony filings have had real world consequences. Last
year, Avon shares soared 20 percent on a filing about a fake
takeover bid. The alleged fraudster was arrested earlier this
The SEC's vulnerability to phony filings has attracted the
attention of Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who wrote
to the regulator last year to express his concern.
The YNOFACE filing is so bizarre it is more likely a prank
than a scam intended to generate profits, according to Jay
Ritter, a finance professor at the University of Florida.
"Serious scamsters aren't so amateurish," he said.