Ampio stock rebounds big after motivated article caused investors to panic Print E-mail
By M. Deosdade, UPN   
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 10:15
While the editors at the stock market publication site Seeking Alpha greatly prefer that authors use their real names, some contributors are not able to reveal their real names due to regulations at their workplace or other factors.
Those policies may not stop SEC regulators and attorneys from seeking to test the publication’s firm limits to this anonymity following the publication of an article which shaved $50 million dollars off the market cap of a publicly traded biotech company on Tuesday.

An author posting under the pseudonym “The Banker” posted a seemingly well researched article asserting that investors should be weary of Michael Macaluso, one of the founders of Ampio Pharmaceuticals, one of the healthcare sector’s best performing new stocks of 2011.

Because Ampio  develops new uses for previously approved drugs and new molecular entities ('NMEs') for important therapeutic areas, the firm has been able to push pipeline timelines along more quickly than most other firms in biotech. The have several mid and late stage clinical trials underway for indications  including metabolic disease, eye disease, kidney disease, inflammation and CNS disease.

While regulators often applaud the efforts of whistle-blowers who expose fraudulent firms and their management teams, this particular author’s motives for alarming readers may have been more self-serving.  The author himself disclosed that he was shorting the stock and that “his group” can trade AMPE at anytime.

Libel may not be the only issue on the table following the publication of several facts which investigators insist are not only unsubstantiated, but irrelevant and intended to impugn character.  Supporters who posted comments following the article encouraged readers to sell their shares even as others posted some of the inconsistencies in the motivated hit piece.  

Just last month, a similar article attacking the firm’s reputation was retracted by editors at The Motley Fool after similar complaints but not after causing damage to the company’s share price. The stock was able to recover after that article was quickly removed, but this most recent publication caused heavy selling on nearly four times the daily average volume and caused Nasdaq listed shares to shed $-2.37 before the damage was done.

Officials at Ampio did not return calls, but some of the institutional investors who hold shares in the company insist that they were in no way unnerved by the some of the pronouncements in the article which attempts to connect Macaluso, the former CEO of Isolagen to a court case in which Isolagen insiders were unsuccessfully sued for deception, fraud and other acts of wrongful and illegal conduct. The Blantantly untrue case was dismissed in 2007-- three years after Mr. Macaluso, had left Isolagen, and prior to any of the events which were alleged. Court filings show that all cases involving the company were dismissed and that Macaluso was not in any way involved with the decisions at the firm after his departure.

In the first half of 2011, Ampio ranked at the top of the list of the price performance of the Russell 3000 Index.

For their part, Seeking Alpha says their holds anonymous contributors to the same compliance and biographical standards as contributors who write under their own name. The website insists on receiving the author's real name and contact information (which they keep confidential) . Furthermore, they maintain a correspondence with the author, forwarding the author any questions or concerns that may emerge about their articles. Stock positions held by anonymous authors must also be disclosed.
[Author Mike Deosdade covers the Healthcare/Biotechnology sector]

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