A Kensington councilman’s Silver Spring company is under investigation by the Financial Industry Regulatory Association.
Sunpeaks Ventures Inc., headed by Kensington Councilman Mackie Barch, markets an over-the-counter multivitamin and is worth nearly $340 million.
“There are no updates, but we continue to stand by our product,” Barch said Tuesday.
FINRA, the largest independent securities regulator in the U.S., does not comment on ongoing investigations. In 2011, it received nearly 3,000 complaints and reviewed approximately 105,000 advertisements and sales communications.
Barch and his brother Justin have a blood-clotting disorder, and in 2007 went into business creating a multivitamin that was safe for them and others with their condition.
Clotamin contains no Vitamin K, which was found in every multivitamin on the market, Barch said previously. The brothers need a constant supply of Vitamin K in their diet to decrease the chance of blood clots. Their K level could drop if they took a multivitamin with K and forgot one day.
In February 2011, Barch took over operations of Sunpeaks, an oil and gas shell company, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission documents. Sunpeaks currently owns and markets Clotamin, and specializes in the delivery of difficult to find drugs, according to its website.
Sunpeaks ended 2011 with less than $10,000 in cash and reported a net loss of approximately $23,000, according to SEC documents.
From March 9 to April 17 the company’s stock rose from 60 cents to $2.23 per share. It is traded on the OTC Bulletin Board, which lists stocks that do not qualify for NASDQ, NYSE, or Amex.
Sunpeaks announced the FINRA investigation March 16, and suggested the investigation could have been fueled by heavy trade volume and Internet newsletters promoting the stock. Trading did not involve shares held by current officers, directors, employees or insiders, including Barch, according to the company’s March 16 statement.
“Sunpeaks also has become aware that internet newsletters have been making unsupportable claims, inappropriate comparisons and unjustifiable common stock performance projections about the company,” according to the statement. “The Company has not, does not and will not communicate with publishers of internet newsletters about OTC Bulletin Board stocks.”
The FINRA investigation could stem from advertisements taken out in online publications that advocate purchase of the stock. Documents do not state whether the companies that paid for the ads have any affiliation to the Barches’ company.
Sunpeaks announced April 20 it hired attorney Jacob Frenkel of Shulman Rogers in Potomac to investigate trading activity and potentially bring legal action against individuals or companies Sunpeaks describes as making defamatory statements about the company.
“The company is adamant that it does not know who is behind the trading of its stock,” Frenkel said. “This is a company that wants to be known for its product, not for the ability of people outside its control to draw attention to it for unknown or possibly untoward reasons.”
Frenkel said the biggest risk in buying a shell company is not knowing your shareholders.
Sunpeaks filed a $6 million lawsuit Tuesday against two companies and two individuals for defamation, interfering with business relationships, and illegal wiretapping.
Although Sunpeaks previously reported no revenue, Clotamin could change that.
The multivitamin is available at Walgreens.com, and the company signed deals that will put it on shelves at more than 300 Walgreens locations in Arizona and Oregon, in Bravo Supermarkets, Navarro Discount Pharmacies, and Winn-Dixie locations throughout south Florida.
It also will be available in 1,200 convenience stores, pharmacies, and small grocers, thanks to the Asian American Convenience Stores Association.
Last month, Clotamin gained a celebrity endorsement in Paul Silas, former head coach of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats. Sunpeaks announced March 17 that Silas would be the national spokesman for the multivitamin.
“No company likes distractions,” Frenkel said. “This is certainly a distraction for Sunpeaks and its management.”