SEC Charges Fund Managers, Analysts in Insider Trading Scheme
The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged two multi-billion dollar hedge fund advisory firms as well as seven fund managers and analysts involved in a $78 million insider trading scheme based on nonpublic information about Dell’s quarterly earnings and other similar inside information about Nvidia Corporation.
The charges stem from the SEC’s ongoing investigation into the trading activities of hedge funds. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York also announced criminal charges against the same seven individuals.
The SEC alleges that a network of closely associated hedge fund traders at Stamford, Conn.-based Diamondback Capital Management LLC and Greenwich, Conn.-based Level Global Investors LP illegally obtained the material nonpublic information about Dell and Nvidia.
Investment analyst Sandeep “Sandy” Goyal of Princeton, N.J., obtained Dell quarterly earnings information and other performance data from an insider at Dell in advance of earnings announcements in 2008.
Goyal tipped Diamondback analyst Jesse Tortora of Pembroke Pines, Fla., with the inside information, and Tortora in turn tipped several others, leading to insider trades on behalf of Diamondback and Level Global hedge funds.
“These are not low-level employees succumbing to temptation by seizing a chance opportunity. These are sophisticated players who built a corrupt network to systematically and methodically obtain and exploit illegal inside information again and again at the expense of law-abiding investors and the integrity of the markets,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan, the illicit gains in the Dell insider trades exceeded $62.3 million, and the illicit gains in the Nvidia insider trades exceeded $15.7 million.
For his role in the scheme, Goyal was paid $175,000 in soft dollar payments that were deposited in a brokerage account of an individual affiliated with him.
The SEC alleges that after obtaining the inside information from Goyal in advance of Dell’s first and second quarter earnings announcements in 2008, Tortora tipped his portfolio manager at Diamondback, Todd Newman of Needham, Mass. Newman traded on the information on behalf of the Diamondback hedge funds he controlled.
Tortora also tipped Spyridon “Sam” Adondakis, an analyst at Level Global. Adondakis tipped his manager Anthony Chiasson, who then traded on the inside information on behalf of Level Global hedge funds. During this time period, both Adondakis and Chiasson lived in New York City.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Tortora also tipped two others at firms other than Diamondback or Level Global with the Dell inside information: Jon Horvath of New York City and Danny Kuo of San Marino, Calif. Horvath caused insider trades at his firm that resulted in approximately $1.4 million of illicit gains. Kuo similarly caused the firm where he worked to execute profitable insider trades in Dell securities.
The SEC further alleges that Kuo also obtained inside information about Nvidia Corporation’s calculation of its revenues, gross profit margins, and other financial metrics in advance of the company’s first quarter 2010 earnings announcement, which was made in May 2009.
Kuo again caused his firm to trade on inside information. Kuo’s insider trades in Dell and Nvidia resulted in approximately $270,000 in ill-gotten gains. Kuo also tipped Tortora at Diamondback and Adondakis at Level Global with the nonpublic information about Nvidia.
Tortora again tipped Newman, who made more insider trades on behalf of the Diamondback hedge funds. The illegal trades in Dell and Nvidia securities resulted in $3.9 million in illicit gains for Diamondback.
At Level Global, Adondakis tipped Chiasson who made the insider trades on behalf of those hedge funds. Chiasson’s insider trades in Dell and Nvidia resulted in approximately $72.6 million of illicit gains for the Level Global hedge funds.
The SEC’s complaint seeks a final judgment ordering the defendants to disgorge their ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest, ordering them to pay financial penalties, and permanently enjoining them from future violations of these provisions of the federal securities laws.
The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, has been conducted by Joseph Sansone, Daniel Marcus and Stephen Larson – members of the SEC’s Market Abuse Unit in New York – and Matthew Watkins, Neil Hendelman, Diego Brucculeri and James D’Avino of the New York Regional Office.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Federal Bureau of Investigation assisted in the investigation.