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SEC is still fumbling the ball

Maybe someday the Securities and Exchange Commission will figure out what to do when it gets a credible tip about potential wrongdoing. But judging by the agency’s handling of a recent investor complaint, the nation’s top securities cop has a long way to go.

This tale begins in March, when an investor in Britain sent an email to Bill Singer, a New York securities lawyer, complaining about a cold call he had received from someone purporting to be from a brokerage firm in Peoria, Illinois, calling itself AJ Witherspoon & Co. The call was an effort to interest him in a transaction involving shares in a company called SecureTee International.

For years, Singer says a number of apparently fictitious Illinois brokerage shops have been cold-calling European investors, trying to get them to buy and sell “pre-IPO” shares of SecureTee — a onetime Nevada-based company that has never filed an actual initial public offering registration statement with the SEC. Occasionally, Singer has been contacted by investors who say they have been scammed and he has usually passed on the information to the SEC.

In the past, Singer says the SEC hasn’t done much with the information. And he wasn’t expecting anything different this time around, after he forwarded the investor’s complaint to the SEC’s online whistle-blower and tips hotline.