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SEC Brings Fraud Charges Against Oil and Gas Company and Its CEO

On August 4, the Securities and Exchange Commission instituted cease-and-desist proceedings against Houston American Energy Corp., an oil and gas exploration and production company, and John F. Terwilliger, its CEO, for making fraudulent claims about the company’s oil reserves. According to the SEC, during late 2009 and early 2010, Houston American raised approximately $13 million in a public offering and saw its stock price increase from less than $5 to more than $20 per share after fraudulently claiming that a Colombian exploration concession, in which Houston American owned a fractional interest, held between one billion and four billion barrels of oil reserves that would be worth the equivalent of $100 per share to investors. The SEC alleged that those estimates lacked any reasonable basis and were falsely attributed to the concession’s operator, who actually had much lower estimates. The SEC order charged Houston American and Mr. Terwilliger with violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act); Rule 10b-5, Section 20(b) of the Exchange Act; and Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933. The SEC seeks a civil penalty and disgorgement from Houston American, and to prohibit Mr. Terwilliger from acting as an officer and director of the company. 

Matter of Houston American Energy Corp. et al, Admin. Proceeding No. 3-16000 (Aug. 4, 2014).

©2020 Katten Muchin Rosenman LLPNational Law Review, Volume IV, Number 221


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Katten's nationally recognized Environmental and Workplace Safety team represents major companies in a wide range of industry sectors, including oil and gas, energy (onshore and offshore), chemical, biofuels, maritime and others on environmental incidents and health and safety matters. We also represent companies and individuals when they face civil enforcement actions and criminal investigations for environmental, health, or safety issues. For some of our clients our engagement begins with compliance counseling and other proactive risk management activities, and for...