One of the poster-children for the ICO craze in late 2017-18 was an iced-tea company in Long Island, New York known as the Long Island Iced Tea Co. From approximately 2015 to 2017, the company’s principal business was ready-to-drink beverages. In December 2017, the company changed its name to Long Blockchain Corp. (LBC) and announced that it was shifting its business operations from soft drink production to activities related to blockchain technology. The rebranding with “blockchain” in the company name caused the share price to increase 500%. NASDAQ ultimately delisted the company in February 2018.
On July 9, 2021 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged three individuals with insider trading in advance of the announcement by LBC of its “pivot” from the beverage business to blockchain technology. According to the SEC’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Eric Watson, an undisclosed control person of LBC who helped drive this business change within the company and signed a confidentiality agreement not to disclose the company’s business plans, tipped his friend and broker, Oliver Barret-Lindsay, of such plans, including by sharing with him a draft of the company’s press release. Barret-Lindsay, in turn, allegedly passed the material nonpublic information on to his friend, Gannon Giguiere. Within hours of receiving this confidential information, Giguiere purchased 35,000 shares of Long Blockchain stock. According to the complaint, the company’s stock price skyrocketed after the press release was issued, spiking more than 380% intraday. Within two hours of the announcement, Giguiere sold his shares for over $160,000 in illicit profits.
The SEC’s complaint charges Watson, Barret-Lindsay, and Giguiere with violating Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and seeks permanent injunctions and civil penalties as to all defendants, and, additionally, an officer and director bar as to Watson.