found Black Swan agrees to settle charges
A Canadian oceanographer who
discovered what may be the richest shipwreck
treasure in history has agreed to pay US$216,355
in an insider-trading settlement with U.S.
The Securities and Exchange Commission announced
a civil settlement Thursday with Ernesto Tapanes,
an oceanographic consultant after accusing him
of illegally profiting from his find.
In March, he discovered a wreck, code-named
Black Swan, for Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc.
as he surveyed off the coast of Gibraltar. The
company revealed the Atlantic Ocean discovery of
500,000 colonial-era silver coins, estimated to
be worth up to $500 million May 18.
In a civil suit, the SEC alleged in the weeks
before the announcement, Tapanes used his inside
knowledge of the find when he bought buy 42,000
shares of company stock. Odyssey Marine shares
soared nearly 81 per cent on May 18 to $8.32
apiece. Tapanes then sold the stock, reaping a
profit of $107,102.
A 39-year-old Canadian citizen, Tapanes is said
to have homes in Ontario and Florida. He neither
admitted nor denied wrongdoing in his SEC
Agency lawyers said he was not represented by a
lawyer in the case and he requested his phone
numbers not be made available to the news media.
Efforts to obtain a phone number for him through
a call to information were unsuccessful.
Tapanes is an independent consultant but has
worked exclusively for Odyssey Marine since
2002, the SEC said. It is not known what his
payout on the shipwreck find would be.
Greg Stemm, the chief executive of Tampa,
Fla.-based Odyssey Marine, said he didn't know
whether Tapanes would continue to work for the
shipwreck excavation company.
"The board will look at it," he said, noting the
SEC case did not involve the company.
In a statement, the company said: "Mr. Tapanes
is one of many independent consultants to
Odyssey Marine Exploration and is not a direct
employee. The company is not aware of any SEC
investigations into any of the company's
employees, officers or directors and has no
reason to expect any in the future."
Citing security concerns, the company refused to
identify the wreck, its country of origin or
even what kind of coins were found and taken
back to Tampa.
The Spanish government, suspecting the wreck and
treasure are connected to Spain, has filed
claims against Odyssey Marine in federal court
in Tampa. A federal judge ruled last week the
company must turn over details of the wreck to
the Spanish government but ordered the
information be kept confidential.