SEC Suspends Trading at Firms Allegedly Claiming to Stem Ebola

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday suspended trading in four companies that allegedly claim their products or services will stem or manage the Ebola outbreak. The agency took action because of a lack of publicly available information about operations at those companies, federal officials said.

The four companies are: Wholehealth Products Inc. (Anaheim, Calif.); Bravo Enterprises Ltd. (Patchogue, New York); Immunotech Laboratories Inc. (Monrovia, California); and Myriad Interactive Media Inc. (Toronto, Canada). “We move quickly to protect investors when we see thinly traded stocks being promoted with questionable information that make them ripe for pump-and-dump schemes,” said Elisha Frank, co-chair of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Microcap Fraud Task Force. “Fraudsters are constantly exploiting issues of public concern to tout a penny stock company supposedly in the business of addressing the latest crisis.”

Bravo Enterprises spokeswoman May Liu said her company does not understand why the SEC took action against Bravo. The company doesn't sell an Ebola treatment drug or prevention mechanism, Liu said. It offers "air to water machines" that — according to a news release Bravo issued in August — could potentially provide fresh water to Ebola-stricken areas in West Africa, including Monrovia, Liberia.

"We have no idea why they would suspend our stock," Liu said. "Our news release was not making any untoward claims in any way with regards to Ebola."

Voice mails and emails from NBC News to Wholehealth Products, Immunotech Laboratories and Myriad Interactive Media were not immediately returned.

To curb potential Ebola scams, the SEC also dispatched an investor alert Thursday about potential fraud in microcap companies that say they're involved in Ebola prevention, testing or treatment. The agency warned that opportunists often exploit public crises to entice investors. SEC agents noted such investment schemes after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.

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— Bill Briggs