NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- When allegations of fraud torpedoed the stock of China-based Rino International (RINO) last month, investor J.M. Hughes lost 56% of his investment -- or nearly $19,000 -- in less than a week.
The attack came from a short seller -- a firm betting that the stock would decline -- so at first Hughes wondered whether the source ought to be "held accountable." It turned out that the allegations were on target, and that the short seller had uncovered accounting discrepancies that U.S. regulators, auditors and exchanges had missed.
Rino came clean, acknowledging in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that two customer contracts questioned by the shorts had not in fact been signed. Worse, the company said there might be problems with 20% to 40% of its other customer contracts. Rino shares, which had traded near $19 before the trouble started, dropped to $6 when trading was halted Nov. 18. The Nasdaq then delisted the stock, and Rino now trades on the Pink Sheets, recently at around $3.50. All told, investors saw more than $400 million in market value wiped out.
Today, Hughes wonders where the regulators and auditors were."Something that simple should have been picked up by the auditors," he wrote to TheStreet.