Biotech billionaire Philip Frost agrees to proposed judgment in SEC case


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Phillip Frost attends the Phillip And Patricia Frost Museum of Science Opening and Dedication Ceremony at Frost Art Museum at Frost Art Museum on May 8, 2017 in Miami, Florida.

Dr. Philip Frost, a biotech billionaire and former chairman of Teva, agreed to a proposed settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission in a civil case that the agency called “lucrative market manipulation schemes” worth $27 million, according to a news release.

In the proposed settlement, filed Thursday, Frost did not admit or deny the SEC’s allegations. Frost is currently CEO and chairman of Opko Health.

As part of the proposed settlement, which is subject to court approval, Frost will pay $5.5 million to the SEC and is permanently barred from participating in offerings of penny stocks, with exceptions, according to court documents.

Frost, Opko Health and the Frost Gamma Investments Trust, of which Frost is the trustee, were among the 10 people and 10 associated entities charged in September.

Opko Health and Frost Gamma also agreed to proposed settlements and neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s allegations. Opko agreed to pay a $100,000 penalty and to some undertakings with regard to investments and SEC compliance, according to court documents

“We have reached agreement with the SEC that will end a potentially expensive, contentious and time-consuming litigation and I am happy that we can focus on an exciting and productive 2019 for OPKO Health,” Frost said in a statement issued by Opko. He will continue to serve as CEO and chairman of the company.

Frost and Frost Gamma’s lawyer, Robert Anello, a partner at Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello, directed CNBC to Opko, which declined to comment beyond its news release.

The SEC did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

“[F]rom 2013 to 2018, a group of prolific South Florida-based microcap fraudsters led by Barry Honig manipulated the share price of the stock of three companies in classic pump-and-dump schemes. Miami biotech billionaire Phillip Frost allegedly participated in two of these three schemes,” the SEC said in a press release issued in September.

Two of those charged were John O’Rourke, former CEO of Riot Blockchain, and Honig, once Riot’s largest shareholder. The charges are not related to Riot Blockchain, and it is not named or referenced in the complaint.

“Honig was the primary strategist, calling upon other Defendants to buy or sell stock, arrange for the issuance of shares, negotiate transactions, or engage in promotional activity,” according to the initial SEC complaint. “In each scheme, Honig orchestrated his and his associates’ acquisition of a large quantity of the issuer’s stock at steep discounts, either by acquiring a shell and executing a reverse merger or by participating in financings on terms highly unfavorable to the company.”

The SEC has until Feb. 8 to file an amended complaint and the defendants have until March 29 to file a motion to dismiss the amended complaint, according to court documents.

Lawyers for Honig and O’Rourke did not immediately return CNBC’s request for comment.

O’Rourke resigned as CEO and chairman of Riot Blockchain in the wake of the complaint.

One other defendant, John Ford, agreed to a judgement in September. He did not admit or deny the SEC’s allegations. He agreed to a penalty, the amount of which is yet to be determined, according to court documents.

Clarification: This article has been updated to clarify that John O’Rourke is the former CEO of Riot Blockchain.

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