SEC Brings Expert Network Insider Trading Charges
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Washington, D.C., Feb. 3, 2011 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged six expert network consultants and employees with insider trading for illegally tipping hedge funds and other investors to generate nearly $6 million in illicit gains. The charges stem from the SEC’s ongoing investigation into the activities of expert networks that purport to provide professional investment research to their clients.
While it’s legal to obtain expert advice and analysis through expert networking arrangements, it’s illegal to trade on material nonpublic information obtained in violation of a duty to keep that information confidential.
The SEC alleges that four technology company employees, while moonlighting as consultants or “experts” to Primary Global Research LLC (PGR) without the knowledge of their employers, abused their access to inside information about such technology companies as AMD, Apple, Dell, Flextronics, and Marvell. The consultants received hundreds of thousands of dollars in purported consulting fees from PGR for sharing the inside information with PGR employees and clients. The SEC charges two PGR employees for facilitating the transfer of inside information from PGR consultants to PGR clients.
“Company executives and other insiders moonlighting as consultants to hedge funds cannot blatantly peddle their company’s confidential information for personal gain,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “These PGR consultants and employees schemed to facilitate widespread and repeated insider trading by several hedge funds and other investment professionals.”
The SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan alleges that PGR consultants Mark Anthony Longoria, Daniel L. DeVore, Winifred Jiau and Walter Shimoon obtained material, non-public confidential information about quarterly earnings and performance data and shared that information with hedge funds and other clients of PGR who traded on the inside information. PGR employees Bob Nguyen and James Fleishman acted as conduits by receiving inside information from PGR consultants and passing that information directly to PGR clients.
The SEC alleges that:
The SEC’s complaint charges each of the defendants with violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and, additionally, charges Fleishman, Nguyen and Jiau with aiding and abetting others’ violations of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and SEC Rule 10b-5. The complaint also charges Longoria and DeVore with violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933. The complaint seeks a final judgment permanently enjoining the defendants from future violations of the above provisions of the federal securities laws, ordering them to disgorge their ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest, and ordering them to pay financial penalties. The complaint also seeks to permanently prohibit Longoria, Shimoon and DeVore from acting as an officer or director of any registered public company.
Sanjay Wadhwa, Jason Friedman, Joseph Sansone, Daniel Marcus — members of the SEC’s Market Abuse Unit in New York — together with Matthew Watkins, Neil Hendelman, Diego Brucculeri and James D’Avino of the New York Regional Office conducted the agency’s investigation, which is continuing. The SEC’s litigation effort will be led by Kevin McGrath and Valerie Szczepanik. The SEC thanks the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their assistance in the matter.
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