U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Litigation Release No. 21928 / April 13, 2011
Securities and Exchange Commission v. Joseph F. “Chip” Skowron III, et al., Civil Action No. 10-cv-8266 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 2, 2010, amended Apr. 13, 2011)
SEC CHARGES FORMER HEDGE FUND PORTFOLIO MANAGER WITH INSIDER TRADING
Hedge Funds Agree to Pay Back Approximately $33 million
The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a former hedge fund portfolio manager with insider trading in a bio-pharmaceutical company based on confidential information about negative results of the company’s clinical drug trial.
The SEC alleges that Dr. Joseph F. “Chip” Skowron, a former portfolio manager for six health care-related hedge funds affiliated with FrontPoint Partners LLC, sold hedge fund holdings of Human Genome Sciences Inc. (HGSI) based on a tip he received unlawfully from a medical researcher overseeing the drug trial. HGSI’s stock fell 44 percent after it publicly announced negative results from the trial of Albumin Interferon Alfa 2-a (Albuferon), and the hedge funds avoided at least $30 million in losses.
The SEC previously charged the medical researcher – Dr. Yves M. Benhamou – who illegally tipped Skowron with the non-public information and received envelopes of cash in return according to the SEC’s amended complaint filed today in federal court in Manhattan to additionally charge Skowron. The hedge funds, which have been charged as relief defendants in the SEC’s amended complaint, have agreed to pay back $33 million in ill-gotten gains.
In a parallel action today, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced criminal charges against Skowron.
According to the SEC’s amended complaint, Benhamou served on the Steering Committee overseeing HGSI’s trial for Albuferon, a potential drug to treat Hepatitis C. While serving on the Steering Committee, Benhamou provided consulting services to Skowron through an expert networking firm. But over time, he and Skowron developed a friendship. By April 2007, many of their communications were independent of the expert networking firm. Benhamou tipped Skowron with material, non-public information about the trial as he learned of negative developments that occurred during Phase 3 of the trial.
The SEC alleges that Skowron acted on confidential information he received from Benhamou prior to the public announcement and ordered the sale of the entire position in HGSI stock – approximately six million shares held by the six health-care related funds that Skowron co-managed. These sales occurred during the six-week period prior to HGSI’s public announcement. Skowron caused the hedge funds to sell two million shares in a block trade just before the markets closed Jan. 22, 2008. Changes to the trial resulting from the negative developments were announced publicly on Jan. 23, 2008. When HGSI’s share price dropped 44 percent by the end of the day, the hedge funds avoided losses of at least $30 million.
According to the SEC’s amended complaint, Skowron gave Benhamou an envelope of containing 5,000 Euros while they were attending a medical conference in Barcelona, Spain in April 2007. The cash was in appreciation for Benhamou’s work as a consultant. In February 2008, after the illegal HGSI trades were completed, Skowron asked Benhamou to lie about his communications with Skowron, which he did. In late February 2008, Skowron met Benhamou in Boston and attempted to hand him a bag containing cash in appreciation for his tips on the Albuferon trial and his continued silence. Benhamou refused the cash. However, while attending a medical conference in Milan, Italy in April 2008, Skowron gave Benhamou another envelope containing $10,000 to $20,000 in cash that Benhamou accepted.
The SEC charged Skowron and Benhamou with violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder and Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement of any ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest, and financial penalties against them.
Simultaneous with the filing of the SEC’s amended complaint, the six hedge funds named as relief defendants agreed to settle with the Commission and pay disgorgement of $29,017,156.00 plus prejudgment interest of $4,003,669.00 without admitting or denying the allegations. The proposed settlement is subject to court approval. The six hedge funds are FrontPoint Healthcare Flagship Fund, L.P., FrontPoint Healthcare Horizons Fund, L.P., FrontPoint Healthcare I Fund, L.P., FrontPoint Healthcare Flagship Enhanced Fund, L.P., FrontPoint Healthcare Long Horizons Fund, L.P., and FrontPoint Healthcare Centennial Fund, L.P.