How can a social network that no one has ever heard of suddenly be valued at more than $US6 billion?
That’s what is happening with the one-time penny stock, Cynk Technology, which is up more than 100-fold since mid-June, bringing its market capitalisation to more than $US6 billion this week. Yet the self-proclaimed social network has no revenue, no product, no assets and one employee.
If it’s true that there’s a sucker is born every minute, then many of them trade on the penny-stock market. As The Wall Street Journal wrote this week, the world of penny stocks is “a historical haven for con men and hustlers that the FBI says is “rife with fraud.”
Cynk’s various securities filings from 2012 to 2013 read like a satirical article from The Onion. Let us count the red flags:
–The company’s business plan is vague and poorly written, containing gems like: “Instead of paying for a lunch that neither party wants to eat, parties can get down to business knowing that their time has been valued.” Here’s the full boilerplate from the IPO filing, when the company was called Introbuzz, not to be confused with its proposed website, Introbizz.com, which is now actually Introbiz.com (emphasis ours):
We are a development stage company formed in the state of Nevada on May 1, 2008 as a web based social network service founded on the premise that personal networks and contacts are valuable. Social networks are web based services that allow individuals to post a profile and link their profile to other friends and organizations. To date, social networks such as Linkedin.com and Facebook.com have generated enormous popularity. Social networks have largely been a “personal branding” exercise or for pure entertainment to see what friends or associates are doing.
Introbuzz plans to be a social network that is also based of showing the types of people you are connected with and are associated. However, it’s also based on the idea that people should, and will pay to get in touch with people you know. Furthermore, money or donations act as a convenient reason to get in touch with people who can benefit your career or enhance one’s life.
We believe that people will pay for introductions that are meaningful since it can save or create significant value to someone’s life such as to find the right executive, nanny, software developer – or even the right squash player. Instead of paying for a lunch that neither party wants to eat, parties can get down to business knowing that their time has been valued.
- Introbizz.com was supposed to launch in the second quarter of 2012. It’s still not operating. Cynk does, however, appear to have started a site under the Introbiz.com domain name, which isn’t listed in any of the filings.
- No revenue yet. But, get this: “Introbuzz believes a social network that generates revenue is a compelling reason to get people to join.”
So how does Cynk expect to make money? Not advertising, it says. But it’s not exactly clear in the business plan: “[T]o reach people in your network, you should have to pay a fee either to the person introducing and/or to the person you wish to meet. The fee can be directly donated to charity, or received as cash.” So money flows from one person to the other.
Looking at Introbiz.com, which the website calls “The Social Marketplace,” it appears to connect users with people in all walks of life for a fee. Want to reach actor Leo DiCaprio? Get his contact information for only $50! Clicking on “business professionals” allows you to meet people like “Nspire Walker,” listed in the “speech & motivation” category for $450.
Regardless, the company says in its filings that it is “likely to fly under the radar for some time.”
- Four chief executives since 2008. That’s a lot of chiefs for a company that isn’t up and running yet. The 10-K from May 2013 says John Kueber was the CEO from 2008 through October 2011 and then Kenneth Carter took over. A few months later, in the 10-Q, Marlon Luis Sanchez was listed as the CEO, having started in April 2013.
Who is Sanchez? According to a Cynk proxy filing, he is a partner in Sanchez Medical Services, which provides comprehensive medical services to the Southern California market. He is also the “primary spokesperson” for the Medical Tourism Industry council in Tijuana, Mexico. Not exactly a Mark Zuckerberg type.
Reached by phone Thursday, Sanchez said he left the company several months ago. “I worked my magic for a year, my friend, and now you can see the results,” he said, adding that he couldn’t speak further at this time.
UPDATE: A document from June reveals who replaced Sanchez at CEO: Javier Romero, whose address is listed in Belize City, Belize. The letter — from law offices of Harold P. Gerwerter, who writes that he signed off on Cynk’s latest disclosures — disclosed that Romero purchased 210 million shares from Sanchez in February. Those shares were worth more than $3.5 billion during trading on Thursday.
In response to an email from The Journal, Gewerter replied, “I no longer represent that company.” He wouldn’t grant an interview. In his June letter, he listed Romero’s address as Suite 400 in a Belize City business center. However, a staff member at the business center said there is no Suite 400.
As for Carter, Cynk said he is CEO of Blaque Technology, a “marketing, promotions, web building/trafficking, and entertainment casting company based in Las Vegas.”
Reached on Wednesday, Carter said he received many calls about the company’s stock climb and was surprised to discover his name is still on company documents. “I thought this was done,” he said. “I resigned.”
Carter said he had the initial idea for the social network and got the support of investors that he declined to specify. He said the investors took the company in a different direction than he had in mind, so he quit and dumped his stock at the advice of his attorney (without specifying to us who bought those shares). He says he believes the current market cap is not based in reality. “How could it be worth it?” he said.
– 10 hours. That is how much time per week Cynk says Sanchez devoted to company matters.
–A lack of internal controls. This is perhaps investors’ biggest red flag. In the risk factors section of the IPO filing, there is the standard filing language about required internal controls over financial reporting. If you don’t have the necessary controls in place, such as an audit committee or a board, it’s hard for anyone to have much faith in your financials. As of Dec. 31, 2012, management concluded the internal controls weren’t effective:
Material weaknesses noted by our management include lack of a functioning audit committee; lack of a majority of outside directors on our board of directors, resulting in ineffective oversight in the establishment and monitoring of required internal controls and procedures; inadequate segregation of duties consistent with control objectives and affecting the functions of authorization, recordkeeping, custody of assets, and reconciliation; and, management dominated by a single individual/small group without adequate compensating controls.
We’ve reached out to the parties involved with Cynk and will update the post if we hear from them. It isn’t exactly clear how this stock jumped so quickly. In an era of venture-funded apps that send “Yo” and potato-salad crowdfunding campaigns, it’s easy to scream, “Bubble!” But there is likely something deeper going on related to the speculative world of penny stocks. Stocks site Seeking Alpha has an interesting theory.
The Securities and Exchange Commission declined to comment.