Vatican City, Dec 10, 2019 / 15:50 pm
The Italian businessman responsible for investing millions of Vatican funds owned a stake in an online options trading company fined in 2016 by the Securities and Exchange Commission for misleading investors.
Raffaele Mincione, through whom the Vatican’s Secretariat of State has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in donations from the faithful, bought in 2015 a 5% stake in EZTD Ltd, an Israeli-based company known as EZTrader.
Through a privately arranged sale, instead of on the open market, Mincione paid only $.25 per share for his stake in the company, while the publicly listed share price was $5.10. For only $1.6 million, he acquired a stake in EZTD valued on the market at $32 million.
That investment lost 90% of its value after a 2016 SEC finding that the company had misled investors and violated both the Securities Act and the Securities and Exchanges Act. EZTD’s share price dropped to $0.001 after the SEC announced its findings and fined the company.
EZTD offered American investors a binary options platform, inviting customers to make an all-or-nothing bet on whether a stock would increase in value. The company did not explain the risks of its products, or register in the United States as a broker-dealer, the SEC found.
Fewer than three percent of the company’s 4,000 account holders made a profit investing through the company, according to the SEC.
“Not only did the firm fail to register the binary options or register as a broker-dealer to legally sell the investment to U.S. investors in the first place, but it failed to disclose on its trading platforms that there was significantly greater potential for investors to lose rather than earn money,” the SEC said in 2015
Because his stake in EZTD qualified him as a “beneficial owner,” Mincione was listed in the company’s 2015 SEC filing.
Mincione’s involvement in multiple Vatican investments has featured in a series of media reports in recent months.