7 charged in $61M single-stock insider trade case
Hedge fund boss among those charged in record $61M single-stock insider trading case
By Larry Neumeister
January 18, 2012
The nearly $62 million earned illegally through inside trading by two hedge fund executives, four financial analysts and a Dell Inc. employee represents "a stunning portrait of organized corruption on a broad scale" and was notable for exploiting the secrets of a single technology giant, a prosecutor said Wednesday in announcing charges in the case.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said at a news conference that the prosecution was part of a government assault on insider trading that so far has resulted in 63 arrests and 56 convictions.
"Each wave of charges and arrests seems to produce leads to lead us to the next phase," said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk.
She said the arrests were not the last in a 4-year-old probe dubbed "Operation Perfect Hedge."
"If you are engaged in insider trading, what distinguishes you from the dozens who have been charged is not that you haven't been caught; it's that you haven't been caught yet," she said.
Bharara called the seven men arrested in the latest crackdown part of "a criminal club whose purpose was profit and whose members regularly bartered lucrative inside information.
"It was a club where everyone scratched everyone else's back," he said. "The criminal complaint and three felony informations unsealed today paint a stunning portrait of organized corruption on a broad scale."
The criminal complaint in U.S. District Court in Manhattan charged four of the men with conspiracy to commit securities fraud and securities fraud, among other charges. Three analysts charged in the other documents have already pleaded guilty and are cooperating with the government.
The insider trading plot was noteworthy for its size. Last month, hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam began serving an 11-year prison term — the longest ever given in an insider trading case — for a scheme that prosecutors said produced as much as $75 million in profits on dozens of trades over a multi-year period. That prosecution resulted in more than two dozen convictions and led to a spinoff probe that produced even more arrests.
Bharara said the case he announced Wednesday was comparable to the one brought against Rajaratnam. He highlighted its size, saying the co-conspirators netted more than $61.8 million in illegal profits based on trades of a single stock from 2008 through 2009. The Securities and Exchange Commission said the profits, combined with $15.7 million earned on trades involving Nvidia Corp., reached nearly $78 million.
SEC Enforcement Director Robert Khuzami said it was disturbing that the case involved high level executives at "some of the largest and most sophisticated hedge funds in the country."
He said there was nothing wrong with fast-trading hedge funds but they are already characterized by a lack of transparency and can pose a "grave threat to the integrity of the markets and the level playing field that is the foundation of those markets" when they use their considerable market power to influence those who possess inside information.
The SEC said the case involved closely associated hedge fund traders at Stamford, Connecticut-based Diamondback Capital Management LLC and Greenwich, Connecticut-based Level Global Investors LP.
Anthony Chiasson, a co-founder at former hedge fund group Level Global Investors, was among four men arrested Wednesday. He surrendered to the FBI in New York, where he lives.
In court papers, he was credited with a starring role in the securities fraud. Authorities said a hedge fund analyst fed Chiasson inside information about an upcoming announcement of Dell's earnings for the first and second quarters of 2008, allowing Chiasson and others at his hedge fund to make approximately $57 million in illegal profits through trades. Inside information about Dell earnings resulted in $3.8 million in illegal profits at another hedge fund and $1 million in illegal profits at a third hedge fund, the complaint said. The Dell inside information also allowed an investment firm to avoid losses of approximately $78,000, authorities said.
Jon Horvath, an analyst at Sigma Capital Management, an affiliate of hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors in Manhattan, was arrested at his New York City home while Todd Newman, a hedge fund portfolio manager, was arrested in Needham, Massachusetts. Analyst Danny Kuo of San Marino, California, also was arrested.
Among those who have pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and securities fraud and are cooperating in the case was Sandeep Goyal, of Princeton, New Jersey, who worked from the summer of 2006 through May 2007 for Dell at its corporate headquarters in Round Rock, Texas, and obtained inside information from employees of Dell after he began working as an associate analyst for a global asset management firm in Manhattan, court papers said.
According to court papers, Goyal benefited from his relationship with a co-conspirator who worked in Dell's investor relations department from March 2007 through March 2009 and in its corporate development office from March 2009 through April 2010. Authorities said a hedge fund with $4 billion in assets in 2009 paid Goyal about $175,000 for providing insider information about Dell.
Another cooperator was identified as Jesse Tortora, of Pembroke Pines, Florida. The SEC said Goyal tipped Tortora who then tipped several others, leading to insider trades on behalf of the Diamondback and Level Global hedge funds.
The third cooperator was identified as Spyridon (Sam) Adondakis, a Level Global analyst. The SEC said he tipped Chiasson, his manager. Adondakis also lived in New York City.
"These are not low-level employees succumbing to temptation by seizing a chance opportunity," Khuzami said. "These are sophisticated players who built a corrupt network to systematically and methodically obtain and exploit illegal inside information again and again at the expense of law-abiding investors and the integrity of the markets."
FBI Agent David Makol said in court papers that the government built its case through information provided by the three cooperators, consensually recorded conversations, court-authorized wiretaps, telephone records, trading records, electronic communications, documents provided by a cooperator and other documents obtained from two hedge funds. The hedge funds were not identified in court papers.
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