U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Litigation Release No. 23385 / October 9, 2015
Securities and Exchange Commission v. Francis J. van Steenberge and Nicolas Zanen, Civil Action No. 3:15-cv-01469 (D. Conn.) (October 9, 2015)
SEC Charges Energy Company Employee and His Tippee with Insider Trading
The Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that it has charged Nicolas Zanen, Vice President of Trading at a subsidiary of Cheniere Energy, Inc., and his college friend, Francis J. van Steenberge, with insider trading in Cheniere options ahead of announcements about Cheniere's entry into contracts with certain counterparties and Cheniere's public stock offering.
The SEC's complaint, filed in federal district court in Connecticut, alleges that Zanen and van Steenberge entered into an arrangement in 2011 to share material, non-public information regarding Cheniere. Under their alleged arrangement, Zanen would share material, non-public information about Cheniere with van Steenberge, who then would trade, including in out of the money options, on the basis of that information in his personal brokerage account as directed by Zanen. The SEC's complaint alleges that in 2011 and 2012, van Steenberge traded ahead of at least four announcements based on non-public information Zanen provided, resulting in profits of nearly $800,000, which the two intended to share as part of their arrangement. The complaint further alleges that by providing material non-public information about Cheniere to van Steenberge for a personal benefit, Zanen breached a duty he owed to Cheniere.
Van Steenberge has agreed to settle the SEC's charges against him by consenting to the entry of a final judgment permanently enjoining him from future violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and to the payment of disgorgement (with pre-judgment interest) and civil penalties in amounts later to be determined by the court. The partial settlement is subject to approval by the court.
The SEC's complaint charges Zanen with violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The SEC seeks a permanent injunction, disgorgement with prejudgment interest, and civil penalties against Zanen.
The SEC's investigation has been conducted by Robert Hannan and Nikolay Vydashenko, and supervised by Eric Werner in the Fort Worth Regional Office. The SEC's litigation will be led by Matthew Gulde. The Commission acknowledges the assistance of FINRA and the United Kingdom Financial Conduct Authority in this matter.