Reston-based Comscore Pays $5 Million to Settle Securities Fraud Charges

Comscore, a media measurement and analytics firm headquartered in Reston Town Center, and its former CEO Serge Matta have been charged by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for defrauding investors and making false and misleading statements about the company’s performance.

In a Tuesday release, the SEC stated that Comscore and Mata agreed to pay $5.7 million in penalties. Matta will also reimburse Comscore $2.1 million.

“As the SEC orders find, Comscore and its former CEO manipulated the accounting for non-monetary and other transactions in an effort to chase revenue targets and deceive investors about the performance of Comscore’s business,” said Melissa R. Hodgman, Associate Director in the SEC’s Enforcement Division. “We will continue to hold issuers and executives accountable for such serious breaches of their fundamental duty to make accurate disclosures to the investing public while giving appropriate credit for a company’s prompt remedial acts and cooperation.”

The investigation revealed that the company — which measures audience engagement across different platforms — overstated revenue by roughly $50 million. Between February 2014 and February 2016, the company attempted to increase its reported revenue by exchanging data sets with another party by inflating revenue, according to the release.

The SEC also said Comscore and Matta create an “illusion of smooth and steady growth in Comscore’s business” by making false and misleading public disclosures about the company’s customer base and products. Specifically, the SEC found that Matta lied to the company’s internal accountant and external audit firm, allowing the company to artificially exceeds its analysis’ revenue target in seven consecutive quarters.

The last few months have been rocky for the media measurement firm. In April, the Wall Street Journal reported the company’s chief executive, Bryan Wiener, left the company after less than a year due to disagreements over the board’s execution of the company’s strategy.

Comscore is located in the heart of Reston Town Center at 11950 Democracy Drive.

Image via Google Maps

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Friday Morning Notes

Google moving in Reston — “The Mountain View, California-based company is close to announcing plans to move from Reston Town Center to 1900 Reston Metro Plaza, the trophy office building Comstock Holding Cos. Inc.” [Washington Business Journal]

Fox Mill Road now open — A car crash and downed pole on Valentine’s Day shut down Fox Mill Road at Lawyers Road shortly after 2:30 p.m. The road opened up a few minutes ago. [Fairfax County Police]

Tolls tanked — “Tolls are off the table for Fairfax County Parkway, and long-planned High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes in the Virginia County may even be a stretch.” [WTOP]

Todd Hitt pleads guilty to fraud — “Former Kiddar Capital CEO Todd Hitt pleaded guilty to orchestrating eight counts of securities fraud that ultimately cost investors $20 million, according to a plea deal announced Wednesday by the Department of Justice.” Hitt admitted to soliciting about $30 million from investors over a period of four years while making false statements. Part of the $30 million included $17 for Kiddar Capital’s purchase of a Herndon office building. [Washington Business Journal]

Fishing workshop — A hands-on workshop at Lake Fairfax Park (1400 Lake Fairfax Drive) will cover tackle, rods and reels. The program runs from 6-7 p.m., and the cost is $8 per person. [Fairfax County]

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Fairfax Real Estate Developer Accused of Multimillion-Dollar Real Estate Fraud in Herndon

The CEO of Kiddar Capital, a Falls Church asset management firm, is accused of lying about the size and value of his company and defrauding investors about a $33 million office building in Herndon, according to charges filed in federal court. 

Todd Elliott Hitt, 53, was charged with securities fraud and surrendered to the FBI on Friday.

According to court documents, which were unsealed on Friday, Hitt raised nearly $11 million by falsely claiming to buy the building near a planned Herndon Metro stop. He spent around $9 million to purchase the 4.8-acre office building and relied on bank loans for the remaining balance on the purchase.

Prosecutors say Hitt was involved in an alleged $16 million scheme to defraud investors.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also found Kiddar claimed to be a global firm with $1.4 billion under management in London, Houston, and Florida, but in reality, the local company only had one office in Falls Church and managed far less than $1 billion.

They also noted that Hitt failed to disclose to investors his “extravagant spending,” which included leasing private jets and buying sports tickets and jewelry.

The complete release can be found online.

Photo via Kiddar Capital

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Local Police to Hold Scam and Fraud Awareness Event

The Reston District Station of the Fairfax County Police Department is hosting a scam and fraud awareness event on September 26 from 4-7 p.m.

The event, which will be held at Reston Associations headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive), is free and open to the public. A panel will offer insights on how scams that frequently target the older adult community. Subject matter experts will also discuss warning signs of fraud.

Families, caregivers, and businesses are encouraged to attend the event. Parking is free.

For more information, call 703-479-5167.

Photo via FCPD

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Report: Congressman Lost $18M in Reston Firm’s Fraud Scheme

Alan Grayson (D-Fla.)Credit: US House of RepsA U.S. Congressman was the victim of a Reston financial planner’s scheme that bilked investors out of more than $35 million, according to media reports.

Alan Grayson (D-Florida 9th) lost about $18 million investing with William Dean Chapman. Chapman, the founder of Reston-based Alexander Capital Markets, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in federal court in Alexandria on Friday. Prosecutors say 122 investors lost a collective $36 million over several years.

Grayson was identified in court papers only by the initials A.G.,  but the Congressman on Monday confirmed he is the A.G. in the report. Greyson is a lawyer elected first elected to Congress in 2009.

Officials said that investors would transfer stock holdings to Chapman as collateral for loans. Chapman then sold the stocks, despite promising investors that they would get back the value of their stocks. If the stocks did not perform, borrowers could keep the money they were loaned. If the borrowers’ stocks did well, they would repay the loan with interest, and Chapman was supposed to return the stocks to the investor at their increased value.

According to the court papers, Chapman, who pled guilty to the charges in May, sold the stocks and had no way to fulfill his obligations if a client’s stock portfolio did well.

“That’s why (Chapman) is going to prison for a long, long time,” Grayson told the New York Daily News. “At least in the end, some kind of justice was served.”

More from The Daily News:

Lawyers for Chapman said it was the strength of Grayson’s stocks that caused Chapman’s scheme to crumble. Chapman and Grayson negotiated a payment plan, according to court records, but it was not enough to keep Chapman’s positions from collapsing.

“Because the return on A.G.’s commodities investments were so astronomical, ACM could not meet its obligations under the loan agreements,” defense lawyer Whitney Minter wrote.

In 2007, Grayson had $9.35 million in a stock portfolio that Chapman was supposed to be holding as collateral. In that year alone, the portfolio’s value increased by 147 percent, to $23 million, according to a chart in the court documents.

It is not the first time Grayson, who represents parts of the Orlando area, has lost tens of millions of dollars in a fraud scheme. In 2009, he won a $34 million judgment after filing a lawsuit in South Carolina under federal racketeering laws against a company called Derivium Capital. Derivium’s business plan for hedging an investor’s stock profile was nearly identical to the plan outline by Chapman.

Grayson said he first entered into deals with Chapman in 2003, well before the deal with Derivium went south, so he had no reason to be suspicious the arrangement.

And he said the loans themselves were a perfectly reasonable way to manage his portfolio, but relied on Chapman and Derivium to hold up their end of the bargain. He disputed that the astronomical returns to which he was entitled caused Chapman’s downfall.

“If they had not sold the collateral, it all would have worked,” said Grayson, who is generally listed as one of the 20 wealthiest members of Congress with assets of more than $20 million. His financial disclosure forms list holdings in dozens of stocks. His dealings with Chapman preceded his time in Congress, which began in 2009.

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Reston Financial Advisor Gets 12 Years in Investment Scam

Gavel/file photoThe owner of a Reston-based financial services firm was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Friday after pleading guilty to a wire fraud that prosecutors say cheated investors out of more than $35 million.

William Dean Chapman, 44, of Sterling, was the founder of Reston-based Alexander Capital Markets. Prosecutors say 122 investors lost a collective $36 million over several years. One investor, an elected official identified in court papers only by the initials A.G., lost $18 million.

Officials said that investors would transfer stock holdings to Chapman as collateral for loans. Chapman then sold the stocks, despite promising investors that they would get back the value of their stocks.

Chapman tried to withdraw his guilty plea before Friday’s sentencing in federal court in Alexandria but was denied.

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