Saturday March 7,2015 : LATEST ON AMAYA TRADING PROBE (Update)
Autorité des marchés financiers looks at the involvement of advisers and investors.
A financial adviser and friend of Amaya Group chief executive David Baazov, Toronto investor and accountant Yoel Altman, is one of the people the Quebec securities regulator Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) is interested in, according to a Globe and Mail newspaper update on the Amaya-Rational Group acquisition deal probe Friday.
Our readers will recall that earlier this year the AMF exercised a search warrant in its probe of the trading activity around the $4.9 billion acquisition deal for the Pokerstars parent, visiting the Amaya headquarters in Montreal.
The Globe reports that Altman's relationship with Amaya saw him acting as an external consultant and financer, and that he was a key adviser in the 2012 Amaya acquisition of online gambling company Cryptologic, providing a $5 million bridging loan to cover the deal.
"Mr. Altman is also one of more than 300 investors identified on a confidential list by Wall Street’s self-regulator, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), for unusually active trading in Amaya’s stock ahead of the company’s news last June that it was buying online poker giant PokerStars," the Globe and Mail reveals, noting that there has been no indication from FINRA or the AMF of any wrongdoing by Altman or the other investors.
Altman has not so far responded to the report, but in a statement Amaya described the Toronto businessman as “a long-time strategic adviser,” who has provided financing to the company and market advice for more than five years.
“The board and management are taking the inquiries by regulators seriously and acting appropriately,” the Amaya statement added.
Amaya’s stock more than doubled in price to about $14 a share in the three months preceding the news of a Rational Group takeover. In the months after the announcement, the stock doubled again to about $30 a share.
Other Canadian businessmen listed by FINRA include Robert Chalmers, a Toronto stock promoter hired under contract as a spokesman for online gambling operator Intertain Group Ltd., in which Amaya is the largest shareholder at 5.8 percent.
Chalmers is also said to be friendly with Baazov, and is a fellow director with him in a company titled Portvesta Holdings. He was also at one time an equity salesman with Canaccord Genuity Corp., Amaya’s investment banker since 2010 and the company’s lead adviser on the PokerStars takeover.
Canaccord, Amaya and Manulife Securities Inc. have all been served with search warrants by the AMF and all of the companies are co-operating with the investigation.
Chalmers has declined to comment on the report regarding his involvement.
John Fielding, a Toronto businessman and director of Intertain Group has also been named by FINRA, and allegedly invested $2 million in Amaya shares prior to the Rational Group takeover; he has in the past denied having any inside information on the deal, and has claimed that his investment was on the advice of his broker.