Monday, May 21, 2012

Yahoo Executive and Mutual Fund Manager Charged With Insider Trading - Civil and Criminal.

Image representing Yahoo! as depicted in Crunc...
Sometimes clients and prospective clients express disbelief when I tell them that violations of the securities acts can have criminal ramifications, and that simply because you do not often see criminal cases, that does not mean that violations of the acts are not crimes.
The most recent case in point came with the SEC's announcement on Monday that it charged a former executive at Yahoo! Inc. and a former mutual fund manager at a subsidiary of Ameriprise Financial Inc. with insider trading on confidential information about a search engine partnership between Yahoo and Microsoft Corporation.
The SEC alleged that Robert W. Kwok, who was Yahoo's senior director of business management, breached his duty to the company when he told Reema D. Shah in July 2009 that a deal between Yahoo and Microsoft would be announced soon. Shah had reached out to Kwok amid market rumors of an impending partnership between the two companies, and Kwok told her the information was kept quiet at Yahoo and only a few people knew of the coming announcement. Based on Kwok's illegal tip, Shah prompted the mutual funds she managed to buy more than 700,000 shares of Yahoo stock that were later sold for profits of approximately $389,000.
The SEC further alleges that a year earlier, the roles were reversed. Shah tipped Kwok with material nonpublic information about an impending acquisition announcement between two other companies. Kwok traded in a personal account based on the confidential information for profits of $4,754.
The SEC's press release reflects that Kwok and Shah have agreed to settle the SEC's charges. Although financial penalties and disgorgement will be determined by the court at a later date, Shah will be permanently barred from the securities industry and Kwok will be permanently barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company.
At the end of the press release, the SEC added that in a parallel criminal case Kwok has pled guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and Shah has pled guilty to both a primary and conspiracy charge. Both are awaiting sentencing.
The financial penalties alone will be interesting, since there are no allegations that Kwok received any money or benefit from tipping Shah, and there is no allegation that Shah directly profited from the tip, since the purchase was made in a mutual fund that Shah managed. However, the Commission may be attempting to use the profits from the reverse tip, of Shah to Kwok and the $4,000 profit there, as the basis for the fines.
SEC Charges Former Yahoo Executive and Former Ameriprise Manager With Insider Trading
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