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Two unlicensed groups flagged by SEC

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Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) logo

INVESTORS are reminded to be wary of investment-taking groups as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) found two that run such businesses without regulatory authorization.

In separate advisories on its website, the SEC named Aquitek Food Trading (Aquitek) and Mr. Lifestyle E-Comm Company (Mr. Lifestyle) as examples of unlicensed groups offering investment opportunities without licenses.

Based on the SEC’s investigation, Aquitek operates from Laguna and claims to be a manufacturer of all natural healthy products. It offers “marketing plans” priced P599 and P2,000 that include getting Aquitek products and entitlement to bonuses from direct selling and recruitment.

“Aquitek lures the public to invest in their scheme through a referral system designed to encourage its members to recruit others in order to earn income instead of selling on the merits of the coffee or juice products… In the instant case, the scheme of Aquitek has the characteristics of a Pyramid scheme,” it said.

It added that since investors are not required to exert effort to generate income than by putting their money in Aquitek, the scheme qualifies as selling securities in the form of investment contracts, which in order to be legal must be authorized by the SEC.

“Per record of the commission, Aquitek is not registered with the commission as a corporation or partnership nor is it authorized to solicit investments from the public…,” it said.

Similarly, Mr. Lifestyle masks as an e-commerce business by offering packages of dietary supplements and beverages. The SEC said it found the company to be offering bonuses through recruitment of members, which it said is equivalent to selling securities.

Going through its records, the SEC said Mr. Lifestyle was formerly named Don Heraldo Mr. Lifestyle E-Comm Company. It is registered with the commission as a partnership, but it is not authorized to solicit investments as such activity requires a secondary license.

“The public is advised not to invest or stop investing in any investment scheme being offered by (Mr. Lifestyle) and to exercise caution in dealing with any individuals or group of persons soliciting investments for and on behalf of it,” it said.

The activities of both Aquitek and Mr. Lifestyle violate the Securities Regulation Code, and are punishable with a fine of up to P5 million, imprisonment of up to 21 years, or both.

The names of salesmen, brokers, dealers or agents behind the companies will also be reported to the Bureau of Internal Revenue for penalties. — Denise A. Valdez





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