SEC fines former CFO of American Commercial Lines

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Christopher A. Black, a former investment banker in Indianapolis and former chief financial officer of Jeffersonville-based river barge transportation firm American Commercial Lines Inc., has agreed to pay a $25,000 fine to settle a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of his improper disclosure of company earnings data.

American Commercial Lines is publicly traded on NASDAQ under the symbol ACLI. According to the SEC’s complaint, on June 11, 2007, the company issued a press release projecting second-quarter earnings in line with the previous quarter’s 20 cents a share. But on June 16, according to the SEC, Black sent an e-mail from his home to eight company analysts. The e-mail warned that earnings “will likely be in the neighborhood of about a dime below that of first quarter.” Black failed to simultaneously disclose this revised guidance to outside investors.

According to the SEC, Black’s selective disclosure triggered a drop in American Commercial Lines’ stock price from $27.13 to $24.50 and a corresponding 300-percent increase in trading volume. The SEC’s settlement says Black acted alone and outside the company’s controls against improper disclosures. American Commercial Lines shared its revised earnings figures with common investors in an 8-K statement on June 18, 2007.

“We are pleased that the SEC has recognized the company’s emphasis on corporate compliance and its strong commitment to a level playing field for all investors,” said American Commercial Lines CEO Michael Ryan in a statement.

According to the company’s most recent proxy statement, filed in April, Black resigned from American Commercial Lines March 1, 2008, and remained as a consultant until April 30, 2008.

Black, 46, a longtime Indiana banker, has worked for locally based investment banking firm Periculum Capital Corp., served as vice president and treasurer of Lafayette-based truck trailer-maker Wabash National Corp., and led Indiana corporate lending divisions for both US Bank and SunTrust Bank. He did not respond to IBJ’s request for comment.


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