SEC Charges Founder of Equity Research Firm with Insider Trading
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Tai Nguyen, the owner of the California-based equity research firm Insight Research, with insider trading. The charges stem from the SEC’s ongoing investigation of insider trading involving so-called “expert networks” that provide specialized information to investment firms.
The SEC alleges that from 2006 through 2009, Nguyen frequently traded in the securities of Abaxis, Inc. based on inside information he received from a close relative employed at Abaxis. Nguyen repeatedly traded for himself in advance of the company’s quarterly earnings announcements while in possession of key data in those announcements, reaping tens of thousands of dollars in illicit profits. Nguyen also passed that same information to hedge fund clients of Insight Research, who used the inside information to make millions of dollars in profits from trading Abaxis securities.
“Nguyen claimed expertise in researching and analyzing technology companies, but his special edge was his willingness to break the law,” said Sanjay Wadhwa, Associate Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office and Deputy Chief of the Market Abuse Unit. “Like many other so-called ‘experts’ who trafficked in inside information, Nguyen now finds himself the subject of an enforcement action.”
The SEC has charged 23 defendants in enforcement actions arising out of its expert networks investigation, which has uncovered widespread insider trading at several hedge funds and other investment advisory firms. The insider trading alleged by the SEC has yielded illicit gains of more than $117 million, chiefly in shares of technology companies, including Apple, Dell, Fairchild Semiconductor, and Marvell Technology.
According to the SEC’s complaint, filed in federal court in Manhattan, Nguyen regularly obtained material nonpublic information about Abaxis Inc.’s quarterly earnings — including revenues, gross profit margins and earnings per share — from a relative who worked in Abaxis’s finance department. Nguyen used the information to trade Abaxis securities in his own account and reaped approximately $145,000 in illicit trading profits from 2006 through 2009.
In addition to trading in his own account, the SEC alleges that Nguyen passed the inside information to New York-based Barai Capital Management and Boston-based Sonar Capital Management, both of which were clients of Nguyen’s firm, Insight Research. The two hedge fund managers — who collectively were paying Insight Research tens of thousands of dollars each month — traded Abaxis securities based on the inside information that Nguyen provided and reaped more than $7.2 million in illicit gains for their hedge funds.
The SEC’s complaint charges Nguyen with violating the anti-fraud provisions of U.S. securities laws and seeks a final judgment ordering him to disgorge his ill-gotten gains, with interest, and pay financial penalties, and permanently barring him from future violations.
The SEC’s investigation is continuing. Daniel Marcus and Joseph Sansone, members of the SEC’s Market Abuse Unit in New York, conducted the investigation, along with Matthew Watkins, Neil Hendelman, Diego Brucculeri, and James D’Avino of the New York Regional Office. The SEC thanks the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their assistance in the matter.