The U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia announced that a grand jury had indicted Laikin, 46, on felony counts of conspiracy and securities fraud.
In a separate action, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil lawsuit in Philadelphia charging Laikin with manipulating the stock of the Los Angeles-based company. Laikin, a longtime Indianapolis businessman, has been based on the West Coast since taking the helm of National Lampoon in 2005.
The stakes are highest in the criminal case because Laikin, if convicted, could face prison time. The SEC is seeking an order barring future misconduct, as well as an unspecified fine.
"When a CEO manipulates the stock of his own company, it is an egregious violation of federal securities laws," Daniel M. Hawke, director of the SEC's Philadelphia office, said.
An assistant for Laikin said the company had no immediate comment.
Laikin is one of four defendants in the SEC lawsuit. According to the 21-page suit, Laikin paid kickbacks to a stock promoter and another individual he believed had connections to corrupt brokers.
In fact, according to the SEC, the individual was cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The suit quotes directly from conversations Laikin allegedly had with the cooperating witness.
According to the SEC, "Laikin ... sought to artificially push National Lampoon's stock price from under $2 a share to at least $5 per share, in part, to keep the company's stock price above the minimum listing requirements of the AMEX, and to increase National Lampoon's ability to enter into possible 'strategic partnerships' and acquisitions." It said the fraud occurred from March through June of this year.
The other defendants in the SEC case are Las Vegas resident Dennis Barskey, a consultant to National Lampoon; New Jersey resident Eduardo Rodriguez, a stock promoter; and New York resident Tim Dougherty, also a stock promoter. The grand jury indicted Laikin, Barskey and Dougherty, but not Rodriguez.
Dan Laikin, the brother of Brightpoint Inc. CEO Bob Laikin, was part of an Indianapolis group that started amassing a major stake in National Lampoon nearly a decade ago.
In media interviews, he said he wanted to breathe new life into a comedy brand best known for the 1978 classic "Animal House." However, the company has continued to struggle. Its stock did not open for trading today because of "pending news." It closed yesterday at 73 cents.
Also on the board of National Lampoon are Indianapolis businessmen Paul Skjodt and Tim Durham. Neither Skjodt nor Durham is a defendant in the civil or criminal proceedings.
Durham and Skjodt could not be reached this afternoon.