SEC Obtains Asset Freeze and Charges Banker and Trader in International Insider Trading Scheme

Litigation Release No. 24649 / October 22, 2019

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Bryan Cohen and George Nikas, No. 19-CV-9645 (S.D.N.Y. filed October 22, 2019)

On October 18, 2019, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed an emergency action charging an investment banker at a large investment bank and a trader in connection with an international insider trading scheme relating to trading in the stock of at least two public companies in advance of news that these companies were acquisition targets. The SEC also obtained an order freezing the trader's assets.

According to the SEC's complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan, Bryan Cohen, learned nonpublic information about the potential acquisitions through his role as an investment banker based in London and New York. Cohen allegedly shared this information with at least one foreign individual who traded on the information and further tipped it to George Nikas who resides in New York, New York and Athens, Greece. According to the SEC's complaint, Nikas used the information to net over $2.6 million in illicit profits resulting from trades in stock, American Depositary Shares, and Contracts for Difference, which were traded or hedged on U.S. exchanges.

The case originated from the SEC Market Abuse Unit's Analysis and Detection Center, which uses data analysis tools to detect suspicious patterns, such as improbably successful trading across different securities over time.  Enhanced detection capabilities enabled SEC Enforcement staff to spot the unusual trading activities alleged in the SEC's complaint.

In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York today announced criminal charges against Cohen and Nikas.

The SEC's complaint charges Cohen and Nikas with violations of the antifraud provisions of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Sections 10(b) and 14(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rules 10b-5 and 14e-3 thereunder. In addition to the asset freeze and other emergency relief obtained, the SEC seeks disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus interest, penalties, and injunctive relief.

The SEC's investigation was conducted by Caitlyn M. Campbell, David Makol, John Rymas, and Assunta Vivolo, of the Market Abuse Unit, Michael Foster of the Chicago Regional Office and Rua 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 litigation will be led by Mr. Foster and Ms. Kelly. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the Danish Financial Supervisory Authority, the French Autoritĩ des Marchĩs Financiers, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, and the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority.