Taiwan prosecutors declined to file a criminal case against a Citigroup Inc. (C) analyst after HTC Corp. (2498) alleged the employee breached securities laws by spreading misinformation, said Huang Mou-hsin, deputy chief prosecutor at the Taipei District Prosecutors Office.
Kevin Chang, a Taipei-based analyst for Citigroup, used information that was already publicly available and therefore couldn’t be accused of spreading false information, Huang said by phone today. Taoyuan, Taiwan-based HTC submitted the complaint in August alleging violations of the Securities and Exchange Act.
Chang, the second-best performing analyst covering HTC, in July cut the stock to “sell” from “buy,” citing corporate governance concerns and the smartphone market outlook. HTC alleged Chang’s acceptance of a media interview showed his intention to spread misinformation and influence the share price, while the prosecutor found that no such interview took place with the information taken from a previously-published report.
A local media article on July 29 cited Chang as saying that Vodafone Group Plc (VOD) had canceled orders for an HTC handset because of delays by the Taiwanese handset maker, the prosecutor said in a statement today. That information came from previously publicized reports and Chang had no motive to impact HTC’s share price or spread rumors, the statement said.
The handset maker has seven days to appeal the decision, Huang said.
“HTC will further evaluate its options with attorney upon receipt of the decision,” the company said in an e-mailed statement. James Griffiths, a Hong Kong-based spokesman for Citigroup declined to comment.
Corporate governance concerns over its purchase of S3 Graphics Co., competition from Samsung Electronics Co. and slowing demand were among items cited by Citigroup when it lowered HTC’s rating on July 7. The stock lost more than 50 percent from that date to Dec. 13 when the prosecutors’ office confirmed the complaint, at which time Citigroup was the best- performing broker covering the stock.
HTC reported sales that missed analyst expectations for two quarters and forecast revenue this period that’s less than the average estimates as competition from Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPhone and a slow rollout of new handsets impact shipments.
More analysts now recommend investors sell the stock than buy, according to Bloomberg data.