Early in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Internet enforcement efforts, agency staffers came across a problematic Web site. Eager to shut it down without “making a federal case of it,” John Reed Stark, the chief of Internet enforcement at the SEC, called the site’s designer and launched into a reading of his rights. The alleged offender interrupted, “Wait a minute — I’m only 13.” Stark and the others on the call were shocked, but figured out how to sanction the boy: “We told his mother,” Stark said.

And as is now well-known, Georgetown University law student Douglas Colt also opted to tell his mother about his site — not to confess, but allegedly to include her in his scheme to inflate stock prices through “Fast-Trades.com.” But now that the dust has settled, some lawyers are questioning the strength of the legal basis of the case.

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