A former tech CEO announced a bogus offer to buy Getty Images to boost its stock price, authorities say

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A former technology executive has pleaded guilty to a single fraud count involving a scheme to artificially inflate the stock price of photo and video distributor Getty Images, federal officials said Friday.

Robert Scott Murray, who served as CEO of networking equipment maker 3Com for several months in 2006, was charged with securities fraud for allegedly trying to manipulate the stock price of Seattle-based Getty. According to a report, Murray owned approximately 300,000 shares of Getty Images Holding Inc. as of April 2023. Statement from the Ministry of Justice claiming that the investor wanted to increase Getty’s shares to offload his position for a bigger profit.

According to statement from the Securities and Exchange CommissionMurray gave one first series of press releases calling on the company to sell itself or to add Murray to his plate. Murray issued these publications through Trillium Capital, a self-described venture investment firm in Massachusetts whose sole owner and manager was Murray himself, federal authorities said.

Then on April 24, 2023, Trillium announced a a so-called bid to acquire Getty Images outright at a price of $10 per share – almost twice the stock’s closing price a day earlier. While the company’s shares rose that day, the price remained well below $10.

Getty has issued its own press release the next day he doubted the offer, calling it an “unsolicited, non-binding and highly conditional proposal” aimed at acquiring “an undisclosed amount of outstanding shares.” Trillium had not provided Getty’s board with any evidence that it was “sufficiently credible to warrant involvement.”

The SEC called the offer “false and misleading” and noted that Murray and Trillium made no effort to raise the necessary funds for the acquisition. Furthermore, the SEC noted that “Murray began liquidating his Getty Images shares within minutes of the market opening on April 24, without even waiting for Getty to respond to its announced offer.” The Justice Department statement alleged that Murray sold all of his Getty shares “in less than an hour for approximately $1,486,467.”

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Murray could not be reached for comment. An email addressed to an address on Trillium’s website was returned to The Associated Press, while multiple calls to Trillium’s published phone number returned only busy signals.

Murray will appear in federal court in Boston at a later date, the Justice Department said.

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