Remarks at a Press Conference Announcing Enforcement Charges Involving an International Hacking Trading Scheme
Chair Mary Jo White
Aug. 11, 2015
Good morning. Thank you, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, for inviting me to be here today. I congratulate all of the law enforcement agencies represented for their extraordinary efforts on this groundbreaking case to safeguard the integrity of our markets.
I will just briefly comment on the securities law violations alleged in the SEC’s complaint, which shows how cutting-edge and important this case is. It also illustrates the risks posed for our global markets by today’s sophisticated hackers.
While the SEC has uncovered and successfully litigated hacking and trading schemes in the past, today’s international case is unprecedented in terms of the scope of the hacking at issue; the number of traders involved; the number of securities unlawfully traded; and the amount of profits generated. Over the course of 5 years, the 32 defendants named in this complaint are charged with carrying out a brazen scheme to steal non-public earnings information for hundreds of publicly traded companies, and then placing thousands of trades through a network of U.S. and overseas traders located in the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Malta, Cyprus, France, New York, Pennsylvania and Georgia—geographies electronically connected by this illicit network.
According to the complaint, these traders located across the globe executed thousands of illicit trades on the basis of this material, nonpublic information, concealing their scheme by spreading the transactions across multiple accounts held in the names of many individuals and entities. And, the traders were market savvy, using equities, options and contracts-for-differences to maximize their profits.
Two Ukrainian hackers are charged with spearheading the scheme, Ivan Turchynov and Okelsandr Ieremenko. Along with the 30 other defendants, they are collectively alleged to have made more than $100 million in illegal profits by trading based on pre-release corporate earnings announcements stolen from multiple newswire services. We charged these defendants in a complaint unsealed today with multiple securities fraud violations, seeking disgorgement and penalties, and we obtained an asset freeze against the overseas traders, which secured at least $20 million of the defendants’ ill-gotten gains. And the SEC’s investigation continues.
The complaint charges that Turchynov and Ieremenko used malicious programming code and other deceptive techniques to hack into the computer systems of multiple newswire services that stored unpublished corporate earnings announcements. These announcements were slated for public release at a prescheduled date and time, and the hackers took advantage of the time gap. According to the complaint, the two primary hackers brazenly recruited traders with a video showcasing the hackers’ ability to steal and transmit earnings information before its public release.
This case highlights a number of important points. It demonstrates the enhanced trading surveillance and analysis capabilities that the SEC has developed over the last few years. It also highlights our use of market experts with specialized skills and experience. We now have new technological tools and investigative approaches that allow us not only to pinpoint suspicious trading across multiple securities but also to identify relationships among traders. The SEC’s Enforcement Division sorted through literally millions of trades, thousands of earnings announcements and gigabytes of data on IP addresses in order to identify these defendants who went to great lengths to evade detection, often identifying these traders based on their patterns of trading. With these enhanced capabilities, we are now more capable than ever of rooting out even the most sophisticated of trading schemes. Maintaining the integrity of our high-tech markets requires that kind of regulatory expertise and vigilance to match the sophisticated trading and market manipulation we see in the markets.
Today’s case also serves as a stark reminder to companies that your computer systems are vulnerable targets. Be vigilant in protecting your systems, taking measures to detect and guard against hacking, and working together with law enforcement to uncover the theft and misuse of stolen information.
Today’s case also highlights the SEC’s continued partnership with the criminal authorities in investigating securities law violations, including misconduct that crosses international borders. Each of us brings to bear the unique tools, expertise and remedies that we have and together we are able to bring innovative cases like this one which serve as a stronger deterrent to unlawful conduct.
The work of everyone involved in this investigation, from every agency, has been extraordinary. For the SEC, I want to recognize our Market Abuse Unit, the Complex Financial Instruments Unit, the Home Office staff in D.C., as well as the Denver and Philadelphia regional office staffs, together with the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis and Office of International Affairs, who all worked tirelessly on this matter. The SEC staff’s expertise and unwavering dedication are essential to the protection of our markets and investors. I will end by recognizing and thanking all of our law enforcement partners, as always, for their outstanding work and cooperation in this investigation.