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Mark Lennihan / AP

Earlier this week the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed enforcement actions against 27 individuals and entities that had used sites like Seeing Alpha, Forbes and Yahoo Finance to post "bullish articles" about listed biotech companies "under the guise of impartiality when in reality they were nothing more than paid advertisements."

What happened: Now we've learned more about how the scam first came to the SEC's attention, per a source familiar with the situation:

  • In 2013, a Seeking Alpha contributor named Richard Pearson was contacted by a self-described investor relations firm, asking him to write paid promotional articles about a publicly-traded biotech companies Galena Biopharma and CytRx, without disclosing the payments (which would be a violation of Seeking Alpha policy).
  • Pearson played along to learn more about the scam, submitting a few dummy articles. He then submitted everything he had learned not only the Seeking Alpha, but also to the SEC. He also would later make his top-line allegations public via a Seeking Alpha post.
  • Seeking Alpha immediately launched an internal investigation, removing dozens of articles and tightening up its contributor requirements (none of the publishers were charged by the SEC). It also provided information to the Agency, which managed to identify several fraudsters that website had been unable to pin down.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.

4 hours ago - Health

CDC extends interval between COVID vaccine doses for exceptional cases

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.