The South Sea Company was a British joint-stock company founded in 1711, to trade with South America.
The stock rose greatly in value as the company expanded its operations dealing in government debt, peaking in 1720 before collapsing to little above its original flotation price, hence the South Sea Bubble.
A considerable number of people were ruined by the collapse, and the national economy of Britain was greatly reduced as a result.
The investigation revealed that company money had been used to deal in its own shares, and selected individuals purchasing shares were given loans backed by those same shares to spend on purchasing more shares. The stock had kept rising from all this purchasing, and it turned out to be a classic case of very wealthy people profiting from tricking ordinary people.
After the investigation a number of politicians were disgraced, and people found to have profited unlawfully from the company had assets confiscated proportionately to their gains.
🎨 "South Sea Bubble" from the mid-19th century, by Edward Matthew Ward.