Forbes magazine is reporting that both the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Autorité des Marches Financiers were present at the Montreal headquarters of the Amaya Gaming Corporation on Wednesday in Canada in connection with an ongoing insider trading investigation involving the company’s stock.
Amaya spokesman Eric Hollreiser confirmed the reports.
The stock price (TSX: AYA) traded as low as $5.81 on the Toronto Stock Exchange in April. By June 5, it had risen to $10.06 before surging to $20.20 by June 13 on the news of the acquisition of PokerStars. While Canadian authorities have so far declined to directly answer questions about why they have opened an investigation, it is rumored that such a sharp increase over such a short period of time was bound to attract attention.
The company released the following statement:
“To provide clarification on a media report, Amaya Inc. (the “Corporation”) (TSX: AYA) confirmed that the Corporation and its officers are cooperating with the Autorité des marchés financiers, the securities regulatory authority in the Province of Quebec (the “AMF”), in an investigation with regards to trading activities in Amaya securities surrounding the Corporation’s acquisition of Oldford Group in 2014.
To the Corporation’s knowledge, this does not involve any allegations of wrongdoing by the Corporation. Amaya will continue to cooperate, if and as requested, consistent with our practice to always cooperate with regulatory authorities.
The Corporation will continue to monitor the investigation if and as it proceeds. The investigation has had no impact on Amaya’s business operations, employees or companies.”
Amaya’s stock price plummeted approximately 20% on the news.
Poker Community Reacts With Vindictive Glee, Some Worry About Player Funds
The 2+2 forums were alight with the news that Amaya could be facing serious legal issues in the coming months.
Any doubts that the company had managed to burn ten years of goodwill with poker players in the mere six months since it purchased the PokerStars brand were put to rest as posters seemed to outright revel at the thought of watching the Amaya brass squirm.
Comments ranged the entire gamut from those who expressed satisfaction at seeing the company face difficulties to others who openly hoped that they would “lose every penny.”
This sentiment only seemed to be tempered by wild speculation that if Amaya brass is eventually found guilty of a serious crime, player balances would not be safe. However, there is no chance of this happening. Player funds are held in separate accounts from PokerStars operating expenses.
It Just Became That Much Harder for PokerStars to Get Into US Markets
While Amaya may not care about its reputation within the poker community, the same cannot be said for how it feels about its reputation in the halls of power.
Currently, it remains unclear if the investigation involves anyone within the company itself, or on other individuals of interest.
However, with the contentious discussions around “bad actor” clauses swirling in California and New Jersey, the suggestion of illegality could not have come at a worst time. Given the company’s recent high-profile, it is unlikely that such extraordinary action would have been taken if authorities weren’t extremely confident that they have a solid case against someone.
If the company is in fact directly implicated in the future, there is no doubt that state legislatures in the US will be paying attention.