The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a former portfolio manager at S.A.C. Capital Advisors with insider trading ahead of major announcements by technology companies.
The SEC alleges that Richard Lee’s illegal trading based on nonpublic information he received from sources with connections to insiders at the technology companies enabled the S.A.C. Capital hedge fund that he managed to generate more than $1.5 million in illegal profits. Lee also made trades in his personal account. The insider trading occurred ahead of public announcements about a Microsoft-Yahoo partnership and the acquisition of 3Com Corporation by Hewlett-Packard.
“Lee’s illegal trading is yet another byproduct of a pervasive, win-at-all-cost culture that will not be tolerated,” said George S. Canellos, Co-Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “Lee cultivated and used sources in the U.S. and China to gain an unfair trading edge that landed him in law enforcement’s crosshairs.”
Sanjay Wadhwa, Senior Associate Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office, added, “We continue to relentlessly pursue and expose insider trading by hedge fund managers who are under the misguided belief that they won’t be apprehended and held accountable for their unlawful conduct.”
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Lee received inside information in July 2009 from a sell-side analyst familiar with nonpublic negotiations between Microsoft and Yahoo to enter into an Internet search engine partnership. Lee learned that the negotiations, previously the subject of market rumors, were moving forward and a deal could be finalized in the next two weeks. The analyst told Lee that the confidential information came from a close personal friend who worked at Microsoft. Lee thanked the analyst for the “very specific information” and promptly purchased hundreds of thousands of shares of Yahoo stock in a portfolio that he managed on behalf of S.A.C. Capital. Lee also purchased shares of Yahoo stock in his personal trading account. When the imminent deal was reported in the press almost a week later, Yahoo’s stock price rose approximately four percent on the news and S.A.C. Capital and Lee reaped substantial profits.
The SEC further alleges that Lee received highly confidential information about 3Com from a Beijing-based consultant who he knew had close personal ties with executives at the company. When his source tipped him on Nov. 11, 2009, that 3Com was on the verge of being acquired by Hewlett-Packard, Lee quickly purchased several hundred thousand shares of 3Com stock for the S.A.C. Capital hedge fund. On the basis of the nonpublic information, Lee amassed the sizeable 3Com position just minutes before Hewlett-Packard announced it agreed to acquire 3Com for $2.7 billion. The price of 3Com stock jumped more than 30 percent the next day, and the S.A.C. Capital hedge fund reaped substantial illicit profits as a result of Lee’s illegal trades.
The SEC's complaint charges Lee, who lives in Chicago, with violating Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5. The complaint seeks a final judgment ordering Lee to pay disgorgement of his ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest and financial penalties, and permanently enjoining him from future violations of these provisions of the federal securities laws.
The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, has been conducted by Thomas Smith, Michael Holland, and Joseph Sansone of the Enforcement Division's Market Abuse Unit in New York as well as Melissa Coppola and Jordan Baker in the New York Regional Office. The case has been supervised by Sanjay Wadhwa. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.