Locklin on science

Nano on the pink sheets: anatomy of a pump and dump

Posted in fraud, nanotech by Scott Locklin on December 8, 2012

I don’t remember how this got into my browser window, but it got there somehow. Nanotech. Someone wants me to invest, like, cash money into Nanotech. They want this so much they registered a domain name dedicated to … some obscure company called “Nano labs” or CTLE on the OTC pink sheets. Please click on this link for some high comedy. Here’s a snapshot for posterity, since I’m pretty sure this website and the half dozen others I found will be nuked after the pump and dump.


They’re not even clever about it. I’m not the only person to notice: someone over at SeekingAlpha has noticed. Someone who specializes in pinks at Boston.com was also suspicious. What boggles me is, this outfit is apparently worth $230.6 million dollars. The post-November publicity pump has added  more than $200m notional to their market value. They have no assets. They recently issued 100 million shares to their new CEO, Dr. Victor M. Castrano in exchange for “new nanotechnology.” Since lying to the SEC is a serious crime, they, to their credit, do  say that it “involves a coating that can be applied to almost any surface, has low thermal conductivity and protects surfaces from water leaks, corrosion and rust. Nanotechnology involves mixing microscopic particles into paints, coatings and films that can be applied to most surfaces to provide temperature resistance and increased structural integrity.” Yes, in fact, later press releases reveal they’re talking about the nano-invention known as “house paint.”

Dr. Castrano is  a graduate and professor of physics at a Mexican university whose physics department webpage is broken. A literature search turns up some actual references written by this guy, published in perfectly respectable journals. Though it is the usual dreary “nanotech” stuff which cheeses me off so much; one of those links involves goop made of chicken feathers.  What Doc Castrano does is considered respectable “nanoscience.” The journal titles are legitimate and even impressive.  Yet this company is an obvious fraud based on the sheerest nonsense. “Nano Labs” was originally founded in 1995 … to “sell and install stone, tile and marble products used in residential and commercial buildings.” Yet, somehow, in spring of 2012, they reorganized, , sold themselves for … $500, issued a zillion shares, and renamed themselves “Nano Labs Corp.” Why did they do this? I haven’t the slightest idea. I am guessing the CTLE ticker was already listed on the pink sheets; OTCQB is almost respectable; only one step away (via OTCQX) from NASDAQ, as they do some limited SEC compliance.

These clowns aren’t even bothering to change the wording of the marketing bullshit in their 10-Q. In the most recent 10-Q, they use the same line as in the above screenshot, “The Company is pursuing opportunities for global market leadership in the field of nanotechnology, a sector with the prospect of $2.6 trillion in global revenues – representing 15 per cent of all projected global manufacturing – by 2014.” It is my considered opinion that the field of nanotechnology will not be worth $2.6 trillion globally in 2014; not even if the dollar were to experience Zimbabwe-style inflation between now and then. I think it very close to an established fact that the  only way nanotech will represent 15 per cent of all projected global manufacturing by 2014 is if we are nuked into the stone ages by nanotech-weilding space invaders.

They  mention in their 10-Q that they only have one part time and one full time employee … yet their notional is $230.6 million dollars on the pink sheets market. And get a load of their 10-K statement, listing cash flows, debts and assets in the tens of thousands of dollars. Their company financial records look somewhat like my credit card statements on a bad year.

The way I see it, there are two and a half possibilities here. One is that the principals are frauds. Considering the nature of nanotechnology and “nanoscience” and the type of clown involved in hyping their “nano” research, and considering the preposterous websites and press releases pumping this stock, this seems a very strong possibility. The other possibility  is that the principals have been kidnapped by the Mexican Mafia for some other purpose; perhaps this company is being used for money laundering, or perhaps it is outright fraud perpetrated by mobsters rather than “respectable” nanotechnologists. I don’t know much about Mexico, but these guys are based there, and some very scary news reports come from that part of the world. If that is the case, I call on Doc Castrano’s “respectable” nanotech colleagues to send General Pershing  to his rescue. Finally, I count it as a half possibility that Doc Castrano and company are in earnest,  and are not familiar with the SEC regulations on fraud, or are not connected in any way with the publicity campaign going on in their name. This only seems like half a possibility, as their website, complete with links to 10-K and 10-Q financials, seems completely bonkers. I mean, what on earth is a “Nano mellon?”


I  proclaim myself an agnostic as to which of the two and a half possibilities is the actuality, though I will vehemently maintain that these are the only two and a half possibilities which exist in reality. Their wave function  has only two and a half states. Unless you’re  long their stock or are involved in law enforcement, it doesn’t matter which possibility is true. What really matters is, this is a completely shady situation involving a seemingly legitimate nanotech researcher. A  legitimate nanotech news aggregation website, run by members of the Foresight institute, touts a “Nano labs” press release as something worthy of attention. This is a “respectable” website on the subject of nanotechnology, with actual venture capital experts  advising it. Yet, somehow these nanotech experts and big dollar VC types cannot see what I find completely obvious: this “Nano labs” CTLE company is an egregious and embarrassing fraud.

I think “nanotechnology” is a fraudulent concept, over sold by snake oil salesmen who should be reading comic books in their parents basements instead of bothering sensible people. Despite my horse laughs at the pretensions of “nanotechnologists,” I never expected to see something this preposterously brazen.  It is actually much worse than the imbeciles attempting to convince the world they have a working quantum computer, as at least some of the quantum computing community laughs at them in public. This is flim-flammery on a  significant scale, and abetted by the Nanotech hype machine. Other than  a few watchers of penny stocks and my own bad self, nobody seems to have noticed.  Shouldn’t real-life nanotechnologists care that their precious ideas are being perverted by frauds? Shouldn’t they be policing their own?

Naaaah! Why dull the nano fireworks?


I’ve never tried to short a pink sheet. I’m not sure what the downside risks are of that if the SEC shows up and legally notices that this is being run out of someone’s boiler room. If they were traded on a real market, I’d short the shit out of them.

Edit add: this morning I notice the very same professor made the news a few years ago for allegedly turning Tequila into Diamonds.  I give up. Humanity is a pack of credulous numskulls without hope. That was linked everywhere from Arxiv to the BBC. I am picturing this guy with his bottle of Tequila,  a bucket full of chicken feathers and sporting a preposterous Speedy Gonzales sombrero counting stacks of greenbacks.

14 Responses

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  1. Rohan Jayasekera said, on December 8, 2012 at 11:05 am

    A lot of money has gone into this pump and dump. The Disclaimer page on the site says “TheAmericanSignal.com has been retained by an unrelated third party for promotional and advertising services intended to increase investor awareness of Nano Labs Corp. (“Nano”). … As of the date of posting of this disclaimer, TheAmericanSignal.com has received six hundred fifty thousand US dollars from an unrelated third party for performing these services.”

    • Scott Locklin said, on December 8, 2012 at 8:11 pm

      One of the things which makes me suspect the worst: they’re covering their butts with lots of SEC disclaimer boilerplate. Their EDGAR listings are more honest than most Fortune 500s. The rest of it is outrageously misleading of course.

      • William O. B'Livion said, on December 9, 2012 at 9:07 pm

        In this case what would “the worst” be?

        • Scott Locklin said, on December 9, 2012 at 11:24 pm

          If el Professore is being held hostage somewhere, there is at least some hope for his reputation. If he is responsible on any level, there is no hope.

  2. starkilleratthedarkside said, on December 13, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    I have an old friend of mine whose feminazi lab boss moved the strings in order to raise public money for her new, “shiny” nanotech startup here in Spain. He is now the CTO of said company and her former lab boss is now the CEO. He is trying to convince me and my associates to invest in the company but he didn’t provide me with any single application that can be used successfully in the industry, and I also see the whole operation as highly suspect. Supposedly they are now earning a living helping the Technion to manufacture monoclonal antibodies, but I don’t see the awesomeness in their work:

    Another snake oil instance, methinks?

    • Scott Locklin said, on December 13, 2012 at 7:51 pm

      It’s hard to say from their marketing copy, which is vague and seems to cover a bunch of unrelated junk. If it’s just an immuno adjuvant … who cares? Aluminum salts work, and doesn’t require regulatory hurdles.

  3. Toddy Cat said, on December 13, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    Reminds me of that headline I saw in the Onion a few years back; “American People Demand New Bubble to Invest In”. Looks like they might have one…

  4. EngSciKid said, on December 18, 2012 at 4:34 am

    Mr Locklin, your articles are so fascinating and readable. Why do you dabble in the weird male empowerment stuff? It has nothing to do with physics or finance.

    • Scott Locklin said, on December 18, 2012 at 5:00 am

      I haven’t the slightest clue what “weird male empowerment stuff” is supposed to constitute, but if you think it appears in this blog, you’re psychotic.

      • starkilleratthedarkside said, on December 18, 2012 at 12:52 pm

        I think this guy read the word “feminazi” on my post and it has triggered the “woman hater alert” on him: Beware! mysoginists read Scott’s blog! shame on him.. the U.S. used to be a country notable by its reasonable people, now the dogmatists and unsound thinking people are turning it into a Soviet-era totalitarism.

        • Scott Locklin said, on December 19, 2012 at 12:03 am

          You don’t even need linear regression to prove that there are unpleasant people who perfectly fit that adjective.
          It’s a pretty strange commentary on our times that I’m supposed to … I dunno … apologize or something for things someone else said. I suppose there are people who derive their self-esteem from adhering to upper middle class folkways that I abhor. Must drive ’em bonkers I find them a lot of snivelling puppies. Snivelling puppies are why we have egregious frauds pimping “nanotech melons.”

          • EngSciKid said, on December 19, 2012 at 8:22 pm

            I didn’t even see that fellow’s comment. I want to know (and asked in an admittedly imprecise way) whether Mr Locklin, the qaunt/physicist of this blog is the same fellow posting articles about how women aught to look like women (whatever that looks like) over at Taki Mag. I’m not even asking because i’m an enraged liberal/communist/social sciences prof/mangina. It’s just that those other articles are seem so much more polemical and the topic matter so moralizing, its like they are not even written by the same person. Regardless, still think this blog is awesome. Hope it blows up.

            • Scott Locklin said, on December 19, 2012 at 8:51 pm

              May I direct your attention to the sidebar marked “blogroll?” The things I write for Taki are more political and funny, but they’re practically on the same subject.

  5. Antonio said, on June 21, 2013 at 10:29 am

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    it’s got some overlapping issues. I merely wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Apart from that, fantastic blog!

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