Canadian watchdog barks at Agoracom

A share trading watchdog the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC)  is likely to rip the leg off has a top share investment information outfit.

The OSC said that Agoracom and its bosses George Tsiolis and Paul Kondakos should be ” suspended, restricted, or terminated”.  It sounds like a snuff film to us but it apparently normal business language.

It has accused them of ordering its staff to post anonymously to client forums using aliases.

Staff created fictitious usernames and posed as investors blending in with other users, investors, and interested persons. Each staff member had between 40-50 aliases and were required to make a requisite number of posts per hub per day or risk having their pay docked.

The messages were promotional and advised buying or holding the stocks.

Site members and Agoracom clients did not know that Agoracom staff were posting anonymously on the user forums. Punters who paid for Agoracom services received monthly reports detailing the number of posts made on the client’s hub, and the number of shareholder inquiries received.

To make matters worse Agoracom attempted to conceal their staff posting antics.

Last year an employee using the alias Goldilocks accidentally gave himself away and Tsiolis, pretending shock, put out an official statement in which he assured users that this was an isolated incident,

He promised that the miscreant would be punished by a 60-day suspension.

Tsiolis has defended Agoracom,Kondakos, his staff and himself.

He insists that far from engaging in dishonest practices, Agoracom has spoken out against the pitfalls of an industry plagued by fast-money boiler rooms, e-mail and fax spam, and chose to focus on long-term online investor relations campaigns.

While he says that the OSC allegation of fraud pertaining to traffic and activity on client HUBS is unfounded he stops short of denying stacking the group.

He now said that the posts were meant to act as catalysts to spark conversation.

However the outfit is not without its supporters. Dominic Jones, an investor relations professional and founder of IR Web Report claimed there was more to the enforcement action that met the eye.

“Way I see it, OSC wants to hurt Agoracom And who benefits? Well, a couple of Toronto IR firm competitors have close links to OSC brass.” he tweeted

Tsiolis agrees. Writing in his bog, he blamed the fact that Agoracom was involved in two successful shareholder revolts.

However it seems that the comments do not answer the OSC’s actual allegations.