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SEC Suspends Trading In Shares of Company Owned By Man Claiming To Lobby For Ukraine

 Enerkon CEO Benjamin Ballout (file photo)
Enerkon CEO Benjamin Ballout (file photo)

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has suspended trading in shares of a company owned by a man who has claimed to be a lobbyist for Ukraine.

The stock market watchdog said it was halting trading of Enerkon Solar International, which trades in the over-the-counter (OTC) market under the ticker symbol ENKS, effective June 23 for a period of two weeks. Companies that trade on the OTC market are regulated by the SEC, although they haven’t met certain requirements such as audited financial reports.

The SEC justified the move saying there was a "lack of adequate and accurate information" in Enerkon’s financial filings about the ownership of its shares as well as questions about "the accuracy and adequacy of publicly disseminated information in press releases."

Enerkon said in a statement on June 23 that it was "working closely with the SEC to supply all of the exhibits needed to validate the items mentioned in order to have the temporary suspension lifted as soon as possible."

An RFE/RL investigation published on March 24 highlighted serious questions about two Enerkon press releases published in February and early March claiming to have been "awarded" a massive solar project and a next generation (5G) wireless project in Ukraine.

The press releases were among a series of filings that caused Enerkon stock to skyrocket as much as 3,400 percent within a few months, turning its twice-bankrupt majority owner, Benjamin Ballout, a U.S. citizen based in the state of Michigan, into a multimillionaire.

Ballout registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) as a lobbyist for Ukraine in early March and said he would be organizing meetings for a Ukrainian minister in Washington with U.S. companies operating in 5G.

He used the lobby filing as a sign that the two projects in Ukraine were moving ahead.

When contacted by RFE/RL, Ukrainian officials said they had no knowledge of any deals with Enerkon and said Ballout had not been hired as a lobbyist. The Justice Department’s FARA division soon thereafter withdrew Ballout’s filing from its searchable website.

Ballout threatened RFE/RL reporters as they sought to confirm the accuracy of his filings with Ukrainian officials, telling one of them in a March 22 text "you and your crew under big scrutiny now. U can’t ever spy on me to a foreign gov and get away with it."

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    Todd Prince

    Todd Prince is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL based in Washington, D.C. He lived in Russia from 1999 to 2016, working as a reporter for Bloomberg News and an investment adviser for Merrill Lynch. He has traveled extensively around Russia, Ukraine, and Central Asia.

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