Writings and observations

Off the turnip truck

Not to get too deep into we-told-you-so territory, but this really was pretty quick. It was only December 8 that we sent up a cautionary warning about a deal that local officials in Payette County seemed ready to jump right into. Their reason for jumping was the same as our cautionary note: The excited promise of quick and easy riches.

At least their counterparts in Elmore County, who also had been dealing with Alternate Energy Holdings and its CEO, Don Gillespie, took their deliberate time. They at least have a lot less ‘splaining to do, and may have saved some other Idahoans from themselves in the process.

One week after our concerned post about how Payette County appeared to be green-lighting a multi-billion-dollar nuclear plant, proposed by Gillespie, the federal Securities and Exchange Commission posted this:

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a self-described power company in Idaho with fraudulently raising funds for a $10 billion nuclear power project. The SEC is seeking an emergency court order to freeze the assets of the company and two executives.

The SEC alleges that Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. (AEHI) has raised millions of dollars from investors in Idaho and throughout the U.S. and Asia while fraudulently manipulating its stock price through misleading public statements that conceal the secret profits reaped by its CEO Donald L. Gillispie and Senior Vice President Jennifer Ransom. Gillispie has touted the company as a tremendous investment opportunity that could rival Exxon Mobil in profitability, despite the fact that AEHI has essentially no revenue and minimal operations.

A side note. The SEC said in its release that it “acknowledges the assistance of the Idaho Department of Finance,” which makes sense since it is the state agency overseeing securities. So when the plant boosters in Payette County said that the project had the full backing of Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter … was Otter up to speed on what was happening at the SEC? Or are we missing something else, because you’d think the governor wouldn’t be jumping onto a project that was about to have the weight of the federal government crash down on it. Would you?

The rest of the SEC release on the case:

The SEC suspended trading in AEHI stock earlier this week.

According to the SEC’s complaint filed today in federal district court in Boise, AEHI’s fundraising was facilitated by a scheme to drive up the company’s stock price, both through frequent press releases (at least 87 in 2010 alone) and efforts of paid stock promoters to manipulate the stock price. The SEC alleges that the company has made multiple misrepresentations, including claims that its executives had such confidence in AEHI that they had not sold a single share of company stock. Records obtained by the SEC show that Gillispie and Ransom have instead secretly unloaded extensive stock holdings and funneled the money back to Gillispie.

The SEC’s complaint also alleges that AEHI reported to the SEC and investors that Gillispie’s compensation was $133,000. However, Gillispie has actually reaped approximately six times that amount in 2010.

The SEC’s complaint charges AEHI with violating Sections 13(a) and 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 (Securities Act) and Rule 13a-11 thereunder and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act) and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The SEC’s complaint also charges Gillispie with violating Section 17(a) of the Securities Act, Sections 10(b) and 16(a) of the Exchange Act and Rules 10b-5and 16a-3 thereunder and with aiding and abetting violations of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The complaint charges Ransom with violating Sections 10(b) and 16(a) of the Exchange Act and Rules 10b-5 and16a-3 thereunder. The complaint names as relief defendants two companies controlled by Gillispie and Ransom (Executive Energy Consulting LLC and Bosco Financial LLC). In a motion filed simultaneously with the enforcement action, the SEC seeks emergency relief for investors including an asset freeze and a temporary restraining order enjoining the defendants from further violations of the securities laws.

The SEC’s case was investigated by Kristin Waldron, David Berman, Heather Marlow, and Tracy Davis of the San Francisco Regional Office. The SEC’s investigation is continuing. The SEC acknowledges the assistance of the Idaho Department of Finance and FINRA in this matter.

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    December 22, 2010

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