Every great once in a while a bad apple pops up, even in the world of solar power where competition among installers and developers helps keep people honest. That’s the case yesterday when the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced fraud charges against MSGI Technology Solutions and its CEO J. Jeremy Barbera.
For individual consumers it’s important to remember that disreputable companies are not the norm in the solar industry. When vying for customer dollars among strong competition, they can’t afford to be. However by talking with neighbors, multiple solar installers and checking reviews of installers’ performance from actual customers, like the reviews hosted at SolarReviews.com consumers can avoid fraudulent businesses like MSGI.
The SEC is alleging that MSGI and Barbera defrauded investors by claiming they had a joint venture under which they would develop solar farms across the country on land owned by an electricity provider operated by Christopher Plummer. “Barbera and Plummer co-authored press releases falsely portraying MSGI as a successful renewable energy company on the brink of profitable solar energy projects,” the SEC said. “However, MSGI had no operations, customers, or revenue at the time, and Plummer’s company did not actually possess any of the assets or financing needed to develop the purported solar energy farms.”
“It is vital that information disseminated by a company into the marketplace be corroborated and truthful,” said Sanjay Wadhwa, senior associate director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. “Barbera caused MSGI to issue press releases baselessly touting nonexistent assets and phony business opportunities, which had the harmful effect of misleading investors.”
In press releases and on its website Barbera described MSGI as an operational security company with customers all over the world, according to the SEC. However, the company lacked the financial means to manufacture security products on a commercial scale. He also claimed a sham operated by Plummer had purchased MSGI’s outstanding debt. The SEC also said Barbera had, “Touted nonexistent solar energy projects with an entity unrelated to Plummer.”
Plummer was previously charged by the SEC in another scheme, similar to this one. He was working with a different company and CEO that also issued false press releases depicting a thriving business that in reality was struggling financially.
SEC said Barbera and MSGI agreed to settle the SEC’s charges. “Barbera has agreed to pay a $100,000 penalty and be permanently barred from acting as an officer or director of a public company or from participating in a penny stock offering,” SEC said. Under the agreement, still pending court approval, Barbera and MSGI would neither admit nor deny the charges.Tweet