A former investment analyst from Maple-Brown Abbott was sentenced to three years' imprisonment, after pleading guilty to insider trading in Big Un shares.
Michael Ming Jinn Ho will serve the three years via an intensive correction order (aka a sentence served in the community) after a sentencing from Sydney Downing Centre District Court.
This includes a 50% discount to his sentence after he entered an early guilty plea in February and cooperated with ASIC in its still-ongoing investigation into the company by providing documents and interviewing with the regulator.
Over one and a half years (18 July 2016 and 10 February 2018), Ho invested about $1.6 million in shares and options in Big Un securities while privy to inside information from now-defunct Big Un's chief executive Richard Evertz, according to ASIC.
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Big Un was the stock market darling in 2017. The company which claimed to use its software to make promotional videos for small business owners rose from being a penny stock in June that year to crossing $3 a share by December. At one point in 2017, it was up 1,383% since the start of that year.
An investigation by AFR revealed unusual financing arrangement with FC Capital; many businesses featured in videos on its website had never actually paid anything to the company; and the then chair Richard Evertz was convicted of impersonating a police officer in 1994.
By February 2018, Big Un was suspended from quotation on the ASX and finally delisted in August that year.
"ASIC will take strong action against market misconduct in order to ensure Australia's financial markets remain robust, fair and efficient," ASIC deputy chair Daniel Crennan Q said.
Crennan also reinforced the importance of co-operating with ASIC.
"Significant discounts may apply where individuals co-operate with ASIC," he said.
"ASIC will assess the level of co-operation it receives, and where appropriate, provide information about the nature, extent and timeliness of that co-operation to the court."
Maple-Brown Abbott in a statement said: Ho's involvement in Big Un was "solely through his own personal investments [and] none of Maple-Brown Abbott's funds held any investment in Big Un."
"In February 2018, Maple-Brown Abbott became aware that employee Michael Ho had breached the firm's Code of Ethics. As a result, Mr Ho immediately left the firm."
"Maple-Brown Abbott seeks to uphold very high standards which are reflected in its Code of Ethics, and takes an extremely serious view of any breach of those standards.
"As soon as we were aware that Mr Ho had breached those standards, his employment was terminated. We have since undertaken a review of our policies and codes, to ensure they continue to meet best practice and conform to the standards expected both by us, and our investors."