Former Investment Banker Found Liable in International Insider Trading Scheme

Litigation Release No. 24784 / March 30, 2020

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Bryan Cohen and George Nikas, No. 19-civ-09645 (S.D.N.Y. filed October 18, 2019)

On March 25, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York entered a final consent judgment against Bryan Cohen, a former executive at a global investment bank who was charged with misappropriating confidential information he obtained through his position at the bank.

On October 18, 2019, the Commission charged Cohen with securities fraud for his participation in an international insider trading scheme. The complaint alleged that Cohen obtained nonpublic information about potential corporate acquisitions of Syngenta AG and Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc., each of whom had engaged his then-employer to provide related advisory services. According to the complaint, Cohen misappropriated this highly confidential information by tipping a trader based in Switzerland, who further tipped defendant George Nikas. Both the Switzerland-based trader and Nikas traded in the securities of Syngenta, and Nikas also traded in the securities of Buffalo Wild Wings, prior to market-moving public disclosures about the acquisitions of these companies, and as a result generated millions of dollars of illegal profits.

In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York filed criminal charges against Cohen, who agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiring to commit securities fraud, and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 28, 2020.

The Court entered a final judgment by consent that enjoins Cohen from violating the antifraud provisions of Section 10(b) and Section 14(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 and Rule 14e-3 thereunder. The final judgment also orders disgorgement of Cohen's ill-gotten gains, to be offset by the Order of Forfeiture to be imposed in the parallel criminal case. Cohen also consented to the issuance of an SEC order barring him from the securities industry and from participating in any offering of a penny stock.

The SEC's investigation was conducted by Caitlyn M. Campbell, David Makol, John Rymas, David Snyder and Assunta Vivolo of the Market Abuse Unit, Michael Foster of the Chicago Regional Office and Rua M. Kelly of the Boston Regional Office, with assistance from Darren Boerner of the Market Abuse Unit, James D'Avino of the New York Regional Office, and Carlos Costa-Rodrigues, Marlee Miller and Matthew Greiner in the Office of International Affairs. This case has been supervised by Joseph G. Sansone, Chief of the Market Abuse Unit. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.