Did Aphria’s Irwin Simon give Selective Disclosure to investor Michael Serruya? $APHA $LHS

Aphria interim CEO Irwin Simon worked a backroom deal to off load the company’s stake in U.S. cannabis investments with Canadian mega million Michael Serruya before he took over the CEO job at the Canadian marijuana company. According to text messages obtained by this reporter between Serruya and Irwin sent on the morning of Feb 6, 2019, Michael Serruya took the lead in speaking for his family and Andy Defrancesco to negotiate the price and timing of when Aphria ($APHA) would exit its stake in Liberty Health Science ($LHS). In December 2018 the Toronto Stock Exchange, where Aphria was listed, forced the company to divest any stake in U.S. cannabis companies because they sold products that were illegal by federal law. Irwin was Chairman of the board at the time but Aphria was run by Vic Neufeld who had made an investment in a special-purpose private company called DFMMJ Investment Ltd for Aphria. DFMMJ managed cannabis farm Chestnut Hill Tree Farm, which was one of only seven licensed dispensaries of medical cannabis in the state of Florida at the time. Chestnut Hill Tree Farm was bought by Liberty Healthy Science.

DFMMJ Investment was first exposed as being secretly set up as an LLC by Andy Defrancesco when two short sellers published a series of reports about self-dealing and a lack of disclosures at Apheria and Liberty Health Science in December 2018. The reports tanked Aphria’s stock. Serruya is a board member of Aphria. I have previously reported, based on text and emails from Serruya, he was also controlling Liberty Health Science and DFMMJ investments from behind the scenes by placing puppet executives in charge.

Instead of selling Aphria’s stake in $LHS on the open market through a broker dealer, where buyers don’t know who is selling, the text messages show a transaction was being set up to benefit the Serruya family fund and Andy Defrancesco.

At 8:14 am Simon Irwin sent a text inviting Serruya to a hockey game. Irwin’s follow-on text said ” wrong person” but “welcome to come”. 50 minutes latter Michael Serruya responded:

Spoke to family member and Andy.
-They are prepared to leave in place what we agreed to, in the event that the shares are sold within the first 6 months.
-if the shares are sold from 6-12 they would pay aphria 3% of the net gain. ie. if during month 6-12 the shares are sold for $1.72 per share, (profit of $64 million), they would pay aphria $1.92 million)
-Alternatively they would be prepared to pay an additional $.02 per share ($0.74 p/s), and make the entire 6-12 month section go away.

An hour latter Irwin texted Serruya “call me”

Later in the day Michael Serruya texted he tried to call. Then at 7:48 pm Irwin texted Serruya “Hey working on getting done”.

The exchange leaves a lot of open questions. First why wasn’t the CEO of the company, Vic Neufeld, speaking to Serruya. Why was Serruya speaking for Andy Defrancesco who was not an officer/board member of Aphria or considered an insider? Did this arrangement constitute Serruya or Defrancesco getting inside information and did they trade off that? Why wasn’t the people involved in this arrangement disclosed in Aphria’s public filings?

On the face of things this read like Aphria is giving selective disclosure, which is against securities law in Canada and the U.S.

On February 19th Aphria made this announcement about offloading $LHS. The public announcement only mentions “a group of buyers” but doesn’t name Serruya or Defrancesco. In February, the company was on a PR campaign to repair its image of buying inflated cannabis assets in LatAm and Jamaica from companies that benefited Andy Defrancesco, Serruya and their buddies. Irwin Simon officially took over the CEO job after Vic Neufeld was kicked out on February 15, 2019.

This week Aphria announced earnings which showed the company is not turning a profit yet from marijuana operations. They also disclosed Michael Serruya will no longer be on the board. According to people I spoke with who work on Bay Street, Serruya is telling people he resigned from the board. I call B.S. on that and think it’s more likely Irwin finally asked him to leave given my story last month that showed how Serruya worked with the head of Canadian broker dealer Clarus to allegedly get inside info and conduct match trades.

Last month I verifed the text messages were written by Irwin when I called the cell phone and he answered. I told him I had copies of his text with Serruya and began to read them to him so he could comment on their intent. He then hung up on me and didn’t let me finish. I texted him saying we need to finish our conversation as the messages could imply insider trading and other things and he immediately answered “I am not worried as there is no truth to this, this never would happen.” Except he didn’t know which text I had.

Michael Serruya didn’t return an email for comment asking about him leaving the board. In fact, Serruya has never responded to any of my requests for comment. He has aggressively been grilling people on Bay street (or anyone he has worked with) trying to find the source of the people who leaked the texts.

The Globe and Mail this week reported Irwin would be getting a $10 million pay package in stock and cash. “Mr. Simon’s arrangement treats him as an independent contractor, paying him $500,000 annually for the CEO job and $600,000 annually to be chairman”, according to the Globe and Mail.

Aphria is still battling a shareholder securities fraud class action lawsuit that names Andy Defrancesco personally as a defendant along with the former Aphria CEO Vic Neufeld.

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Comments

  1. mgelsomino cappa says

    If this is true I hope they go to jail as of the stocks I lost money and still own shares

  2. Get ‘em

  3. apha is shorted by the big boys to much cash changing hands

  4. Charles Wahlheim says

    Thank you for your research, keep up pursuing truth. All the best,

    Charles

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