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Guo Wengui holds a news conference on Nov. 20, 2018. Photo: Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images

Three media businesses linked to exiled Chinese businessman Guo Wengui have agreed to pay more than $539 million to settle charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The companies are accused of illegally selling stock and digital assets between April and June 2020.

Why it matters: Guo has been linked to pro-Trump allies and groups, including Steve Bannon and Gettr, the social media network founded by former Trump aide Jason Miller.

Details: According to a statement from the SEC, New York City-based GTV Media Group Inc. and Saraca Media Group Inc. and Phoenix, Arizona-based Voice of Guo Media Inc. — companies all linked to Guo — have been charged with conducting an illegal unregistered offering of GTV common stock.

  • The SEC also said it charged GTV and Saraca "for conducting an illegal unregistered offering of a digital asset security referred to as either G-Coins or G-Dollars."
  • In total, the three groups collectively raised about $487 million from more than 5,000 investors, including U.S. investors. According to the SEC, no registration statements were filed or in effect for either offering, which is illegal.

The big picture: Guo is known for boosting right-wing misinformation and having close ties to Bannon.

  • In 2019, Axios reported that Guo Media contracted Bannon for at least $1 million for “strategic consulting services."
  • CNBC reported last week that Guo has been using his online platform GTV to push unproven drugs to treat the coronavirus, including ivermectin, which is commonly peddled by right-wing conspiracists.

Between the lines: The SEC failed to prevent Guo's illegal stock issuance as it was happening.

  • "If the SEC truly wants to protect investors and confidence in capital markets," says Francine McKenna, adjunct professor in American University’s MBA program and the editor of the newsletter, The Dig, "it would focus more on stopping companies from playing fast and loose with securities laws."

Go deeper

Jan. 6 committee recommends contempt charges against Bannon

Steve Bannon. Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

The House select committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riots unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday night recommending that former Trump aide Steve Bannon be held in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena.

Why it matters: The resolution sets up a House vote to refer Bannon for potential criminal prosecution, signaling that the committee will not tolerate attempts by former President Trump and his associates to stymie the investigation.

SEC debunks conspiracy theories about meme stock mania

Photo: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The SEC issued its long-awaited report on the meme stock mania, which downplayed the narrative that a "short squeeze" was the primary driver behind GameStop's historic stock moves — and shot down conspiracy theories about the event.

Why it matters: The postmortem was highly anticipated, largely because of what it could hint about what the regulator thinks should be done in wake of the saga. But the report stopped short of specific policy recommendations.

5 mins ago - Sports

NFL to end race-based testing in concussion settlements

Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The National Football League (NFL) on Wednesday reached an agreement with former players to end the controversial practice of race-based adjustments in dementia testing, AP reports.

Why it matters: The deal, which must still be approved by a judge, comes amid a broader discussion of racial inequities in health care.