The Securities and Exchange Board of India on Thursday barred actor Arshad Warsi, his wife Maria Goretti and 29 others from the share market for allegedly using YouTube channels to manipulate stocks.
The market regulator, in two interim orders, said that they used the video streaming platform to pump and dump stocks. A pump and dump takes place when an investor or group of investors buy a stock cheaply, then drive its price up by spreading rumors and/or misinformation. The stock is later sold to unwitting investors at a profit.
SEBI said that videos on four YouTube channels – The Advisor, Moneywise, Midcap calls and Profit Yatra – were used to market stocks.
The videos shared false and misleading information about Sadhna Broadcast Limited and Sharpline Broadcast Limited, recommending investors to buy their shares, according to the regulator. This was followed up with paid marketing campaign “worth crores of rupees for additional reach”.
In one stock, SEBI found that the number of small shareholders jumped drastically from 2,167 to 55,343 in a short span.
Promoters of Sadhna Broadcast – Shreya Gupta, Gaurav Gupta, Saurabh Gupta, Pooja Aggarwal and Varun Media – have also been banned from participating in the share market.
The market regulator said it has impounded illegal gains worth Rs 54 crore made by people and entities involved in the scam.
SEBI said Warsi made a profit of Rs 29.43 lakh while his wife earned a profit of Rs 37.56 lakh.
Warsi, however, denied the allegations. “Please do not believe everything you read in the news,” he wrote on Twitter. “Maria and my knowledge about stocks is zero, took advice and invested in Sharda, and like many other, lost all our hard earned money.”