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Thursday, December 02, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
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SEC halts trading in 26 small firms

By The Associated Press

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WASHINGTON — The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) yesterday suspended trading in shares of 26 small companies, including online grocer Webvan and a health Web site named for former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, because they failed to file required financial reports.

The SEC began last June halting trading in companies for delinquent reporting, as a way to protect investors by preventing stock manipulation. The agency said the companies' failure to submit the reports means there is a lack of current and accurate information about them.

The halts began at the start of trading yesterday. The shares will be allowed to resume trading on Dec. 15 if the companies file the required reports. Most of the companies' shares are traded on the National Association of Securities Dealers' OTC Bulletin Board, an electronic trading system for small stocks that are thinly traded.

The SEC suspends trading in stocks from time to time, but a suspension of numerous companies at the same time is fairly rare. The agency suspended trading in another batch of 26 small companies in June for delinquent reporting.

"When companies fail to make their filings, investors can get hurt," said Larry West, associate director of the SEC's enforcement division, in a statement. The commission revoked the registrations of companies that were "seriously delinquent," West said.

Webvan declared bankruptcy in 2001, after acquiring Kirkland's HomeGrocer.com. and burning through $830 million after making grandiose predictions for its business. Its shares last traded over the counter Tuesday at 0.00019 cent.

The company operating the site named for Koop, DrKoop.com, was once worth more than $1 billion but collapsed a few years after going public. Some of its assets, notably Internet domain names, were sold in bankruptcy court for $186,000.

Koop originally was paid $10,000 for the use of his name.

The 25 other companies affected by the SEC's action are: 1st Miracle Entertainment, Abacan Resources, Advanced Solutions and Technologies, American Multiplexer, Amitelo Communications, Asset Equity Group, Comparator Systems, Digi Link Technologies, DMT Energy, Emerging Enterprise Solutions, First Pacific Networks, Gemz, Heroes, Homeland Security Technology, Household Direct, Infotopia, International Brands, JTS, Interspace Enterprises, Mega Micro Technologies Group, Shaman Pharmaceuticals, United States Crude International, Vertical Computer Systems and Whitehall Enterprises.

Material from Bloomberg News is used in this report.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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