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Jul 21, 2020

You do the crime, you do the time – so they say, but sometimes punishments for identical crimes are unequal and even puzzling. Let us start with the case of Charles C. Liu and Xin Wang, a married couple and U.S. citizens in California, who raised over $27 million USD from Chinese companies claiming they were going to use these investments to build a cancer treatment centre.

It was discovered by the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) that the couple did not use all of the funds towards their stated project, and that once they secured the money, although they had the land, no development work was being undertaken. What the SEC did find was that $11.8 million USD was transferred back to Chinese companies owned by Liu and other monies were used for personal expenses by the couple. The courts ruled that the couple had to pay a disgorgement award requiring the couple to pay back the full amount they had obtained from the investors, in addition to a civil penalty of US$8.2 million.

But let us compare this to Telegram, the company who raised $1.7 billion USD during what the SEC deemed an illegal securities sale. They agreed to return $1.2 billion to investors and they are only going to be paying an $18.5 million penalty. So, what about all the interest on the $1.7 billion raised (and banked) and the difference in amounts, a mere $500 million USD. Where is that going?

Join me, Aviva Ounap, and Jonathan Dunsmoor of Dunsmoor Law, as we look at SEC justice, and compare fines, penalties and disgorgements of these two cases and wonder about the logic behind their punishments.

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