AgFeed Industries agreed last week to pay back $18 million in illicit profits to victims arising from an accounting fraud that resulted in an enforcement action brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this year.
The SEC charged the animal feed company, currently in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and several of its senior-level executives in March with repeatedly reporting fake revenues from the company’s China operations in order to meet financial targets and prop up AgFeed’s stock price. The company obtained illicit gains in stock offerings to investors at the inflated prices resulting from the accounting scheme. The SEC also alleged that U.S. managers learned of the accounting fraud, but failed to take adequate steps to investigate and disclose it to investors.
“This settlement holds AgFeed accountable for its accounting fraud and deprives the company of ill-gotten gains,” Julie Lutz, director of the SEC’s Denver regional office, said in a statement. “This provides the most expedient and effective way to provide a substantial recovery to victims of AgFeed’s fraud while the company remains in bankruptcy.”
Under the proposed settlement, AgFeed also agreed to the entry of a permanent injunction enjoining it from the anti-fraud, periodic reporting, and record-keeping and internal control provisions of the federal securities laws. AgFeed neither admits nor denies the charges in the settlement.
The settlement is subject to court approval by the bankruptcy court as well as the district court in Tennessee, where the case was filed. The SEC’s case against five former AgFeed executives and a former audit committee chair continues.