WASHINGTON, DC—The Securities and Exchange Commission announced Tuesday that more than 63 percent of all U.S. citizens have been implicated in an illegal stock-dumping, the latest scandal to rock the nation's economy.
"It's staggering how far-reaching this is," SEC chairman Harvey Pitt said. "More than 175 million citizens from all walks of life are involved in one criminal imbroglio. Everybody from white-collar workers to grandmothers, boy-scout leaders, and the entire state of Delaware. Point a finger anywhere, and you have a better chance than not of hitting a guilty party."
According to the SEC, on Jan. 15, Jerome P. Lippman, vice-president of pharmaceutical giant Unocore Systems in Dallas, warned friends and business associates of a failed merger with Pfizer. The information was leaked by an as-yet-undetermined source, resulting in 98 percent of Unocore's stock being sold off on Jan. 16, one day prior to an official public announcement of the unsuccessful merger.
Pitt said the 2 percent of Unocore's stockholders who failed to sell off their stock faced massive financial losses.
"The stock went from $235 to 13 cents a share in half an hour," said Kyle Levey, an Arizona factory worker implicated in the scandal. "That's when I knew I wasn't the only one with insider information. Sure enough, pretty much everyone on my block was in on it, too. And everyone down at work. And everyone at church."
Due to the enormous amount of paperwork involved in the scandal, the precise details of who was involved and to what extent remains unknown. Prosecutors say time will fill in most of the blanks.
"Everyone even remotely involved will be subpoenaed," Pitt said. "We've been going state by state in alphabetical order to tell those implicated that they will be brought to court. We're only up to Arkansas, though."
In order to streamline the notification process, the Justice Department will scroll the names of implicated U.S. citizens on Court TV and CNN, as well as during NBC's Thursday-night "Must See TV" block. Those listed are encouraged to call the 800 number on the screen for further instructions on how to be legally summoned to court.
"This is going to take years," Pitt said. "We've had to hire nearly 52 million people, or about 19 percent of the population, just to answer phones."
With the economy already reeling from other corporate scandals and rising unemployment, the news could not have come at a worse time.
"Sure, some people are temporarily employed because of this," said economist Todd Langham, who was also implicated in the scandal. "But everyone else is tightening belts and fearing the worst. Millions are facing steep fines and possible jail time. They won't just get a slap on the wrist—unless they all get sprung on a technicality, that is."
Many citizens have expressed outrage at those charged in the scandal.
"It's just crazy," Chicago homemaker Mary Anders said shortly after Tuesday's announcement. "How so many people could be so greedy and corrupt is beyond me."
Anders was served a summons later that day.
Some implicated citizens are hoping their involvement goes unnoticed due to the enormity of the case, but prosecutors say they will diligently pursue all wrongdoers.
"It will take a while, but everyone involved will have to face Lady Justice," Pitt said. "Whether you sold one share or a thousand, using insider information for profit is illegal, and you will be prosecuted. I would recommend that the millions of people involved all chip in for a really good lawyer."
As of press time, the remaining 175,145,456 citizens implicated in the scandal had no comment.