Avon Buyout Hoax

Avon Products is a famous cosmetic producer. The "Avon Lady" sales representative is familiar to almost everyone. It seems that various interests have been pushing Avon to sell the company for years. They had fought off an offer in 2012. Then - on May 14, 2015 - another offer appeared. An outfit calling itself PTG Capital Partners filed an on-line document with the SEC announcing a buyout bid at nearly three times Avon's market value. Avon stock, which had opened at $6.71 per share, climbed by over $1 very quickly. Somewhere in the range of 13,000,000 shares traded. It wound down when someone found "that neither PTG Capital nor the firm's supposed lawyer in the United States existed at the locations given in the regulatory filing. Avon issued a statement saying that it had not received an offer and could not confirm that PTG even existed." (NYT)

The party ended; the offer was a hoax. Probable purpose was stock manipulation. Here's how it would work.

  1. Hoaxer buys a large position in target company stock.
  2. Hoaxer files fake offer documents with SEC, taking advantage of the fact that such filings are not checked by humans.
  3. The stock price rises as speculators rush to buy it in order to cash in on the rich buyout offer.
  4. The hoaxer now sells his stock into the rally. If you can sell 10,000,000 shares at $1 per share profit, you really win.
  5. Some human actually checks out the offer and discovers that it is fake.
  6. The stock's price rise ends as the hoax is exposed.
  7. The post-hoax investigation begins.

The hoax was ultimately traced to five plotters in Bulgaria. They had done the same things with Towers Group International and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. (AP)

The Avon hoax was widely reported. We took our information from the New York Times and the Associated Press.