SEC Charges Hedge Fund Trader With Insider Trading in Carter’s Stock
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced insider trading charges against a New York-based investment professional who used nonpublic information about youth clothing company Carter’s Inc. to give the hedge fund where he worked a $3.2 million trading edge.
The SEC alleges that Mark Megalli obtained the inside information through a consulting agreement he had with the former vice president of investor relations at Carter’s, Eric Martin, who the SEC has previously charged among several others in its investigation into insider trading of Carter’s stock. Martin, who had left Carter’s and started his own consulting firm, maintained contact with at least one company insider and obtained confidential information in advance of market-moving events that he supplied to Megalli so he could trade on it. Megalli enabled hedge fund Level Global Investors L.P. to avoid approximately $2.4 million in losses and make $853,655 in illicit profits by trading shares ahead of positive or negative news.
“The information was hot enough that Megalli sometimes conducted the trades while he was still on the phone with his source,” said William Hicks, associate regional director of the SEC’s Atlanta Regional Office. “After one profitable trade, Megalli bragged to his colleagues about being ‘max short’ in advance of negative news without mentioning his inside source.”
In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia today announced a criminal case against Megalli.
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Megalli joined Level Global as head of its consumer sector in August 2009 and entered into the consulting agreement with Martin’s firm a month later. Martin began providing Megalli with confidential information about Carter’s anticipated financial results on the same day the consulting agreement was executed, and Megalli began directing and causing Level Global to trade on that nonpublic information.
The SEC’s complaint alleges that Megalli directed the purchase of 350,000 shares of Carter’s stock from September 14 to 17 based on explicit positive earnings information that he received from Martin. Megalli’s very first trade in Carter’s shares occurred while he was on the phone with Martin. On October 23, Martin advised Megalli about an unexpected accounting issue that was uncovered at Carter’s. While still on the phone with Martin, Megalli immediately ordered the sale of 100,000 shares and instructed Level Global’s trader to continue selling the firm’s entire position in Carter’s. After Level Global sold its entire position, Carter’s announced on October 27 that it was delaying its earnings release to complete a review of its accounting. By selling shares prior to the negative announcement, Level Global avoided losses of more than $2.1 million.
The SEC alleges that Megalli also traded ahead of negative news based on nonpublic information from Martin to avoid losses of $268,500 in November 2009. Megalli’s trading earned illicit profits of $205,000 in December 2009. During a telephone conversation on July 8, 2010, Martin tipped Megalli that Carter’s earnings for the quarter would be below expectations. Megalli immediately caused Level Global to begin accumulating a short position in Carter’s, and built up the short position to 300,000 shares by July 19. Carter’s issued an earnings release on July 29 that contained negative future guidance, and its stock subsequently declined in price. Level Global covered its entire short position at the lower price, generating profits of $648,655. After the trading, Megalli boasted to colleagues in instant messages about the “max short” on Carter’s before the negative announcement. He received hearty congratulations from his colleagues.
The SEC’s complaint charges Megalli with violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws, and seeks a permanent injunction, disgorgement with prejudgment interest, and financial penalties.
The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, has been conducted in the Atlanta Regional Office by Grant Mogan under the supervision of Peter J. Diskin. The litigation will be led by Graham Loomis and Pat Huddleston. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
Among the other individuals who the SEC has charged in connection with its investigation of insider trading and financial fraud at Carter’s were the company’s former executive vice president Joseph Elles, former president Joseph Pacifico, and a divisional merchandise manager at Kohl’s named Michael Johnson who handled that store’s account with Carter’s. The SEC entered a non-prosecution agreement with Carter’s in return for the company’s extensive cooperation with the SEC’s investigation.