Todd Newman

Just seconds after the prosecutor arguing the appeal introduced herself, the judges grilled her about the case and implied that Mr. Bharara’s office steered insider trading trials to Judge Richard J. Sullivan, who oversaw Mr. Chiasson’s and Mr. Newman’s trial and a subsequent case against another trader. The questioning appeared to send a cautionary message to Judge Sullivan, who is known for often siding with the government, and took a swipe at prosecutors for cherry-picking judges. Judge Barrington D. Parker — interrupting the prosecutor, Antonia M. Apps — referred to Judge Sullivan as the government’s apparent “preferred venue” for insider trading cases. While Ms. Apps argued that consolidating the cases created “judicial efficiencies,” another member of the appellate panel noted the “sheer coincidence that the judge who bought into the government’s theory was the one” assigned to the recent trials. [Dealbook]

As you’ve no doubt noticed, a number of hedge fund managers have in recent years been found guilty by a jury of their peers of insider-trading, a nebulous and gray-area-filled offense that some people think perhaps should not be illegal but which, all the same, is, and which conviction of said crime carries with it the potential for quite a few years in a place where pampered financiers don’t always get the best of it. Given the latter, everyone who has been found so guilty by said jury of said peers has asked judges with higher pay grades to find that, in spite of their deep and abiding faith in American jurisprudence, 12 ordinary men and women committed a grave miscarriage of justice against them.

To date, none have succeeded, or really even come close to succeeding. So it is likely to be for Anthony Chiasson and Todd Newman, late of the late Level Global Investors and the late Diamondback Capital Management, respectively, who got rolled by their former analysts for the sharing of and trading in all manner of secret sauce about Dell Inc. and other technology companies. But man oh man, what if they did succeed where all others have failed? Let’s just say you could cancel that twice-life-size bronze monument to Preet Bharara planned for Foley Square. Read more »

You’re only guilty of criminal insider trading, in America,1 if:

  • you trade on information that is material and nonpublic, and
  • some other stuff.

The other stuff is mostly stuff that only a lawyer could love, but man do they love it. It consists most importantly of the rule that the person who gives you the material nonpublic information needs to have done so in breach of some duty to keep the information secret and in order to get some personal benefit for himself. If a stranger just wanders up to you and says “I’m the CEO of Smerbafife and it’s a giant fraud, gotta go,” and you trade on that: you’re probably good.

This doesn’t help very often, though, since the personal benefit for the tipper doesn’t have to be an explicit bribe, or an explicit anything; just a desire to spice up your friendship with some material nonpublic information can qualify.2 (Also: usually there are bribes. You start with casual venting of frustrations and the next thing you know you’re accepting bags of cash in parking lots.)

It might help Anthony Chiasson and Todd Newman though: Read more »

Alternatively, if you made the mistake of approaching Todd Newman with information that was obtained through legitimate means, Jesse Tortora claims you’d be on the receiving end of a death stare the first time and a “What did I tell you about coming in here with a trade idea you ‘thoroughly researched’? Get the fuck out of my office and don’t ever waste my time with this garbage again,” on subsequent occasions. Read more »

  • 14 Nov 2012 at 6:30 PM

Accused Insider Traders Already Guilty Of One Thing

Being the sort of cheeseballs who call their adult “clique of friends ‘the Fight Club,’ named after the Brad Pitt movie.” [Bloomberg, earlier]

Later this week, Anthony Chiasson, a Level Global co-founder, and Todd Newman, a former Diamondback portfolio manager, will go to trial in Federal Court for allegedly making $67 million in ill-gotten gains, based on inside information they obtained about Nvidia Corp and Dell Inc. According to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Chiasson and Newman, who’ve both pleaded not guilty, were able to rack up all their profits by teaming up with a bunch of friends and forming an insider trading club, which is a lot like a book club or fight club in that they took roll, traded canapé duties, and drank Pinot Grigio, but different in that instead of discussing The Art Of Fielding or punching each other in the face, they spent every Monday night from 7 to 9 sharing material non-public information with each other.

“This case describes a tight-knit circle of greed on the part of professionals willing to traffic in confidential information,” Bharara said when the charges were announced in January. “It was a circle of friends who essentially formed a criminal club, whose purpose was profit and whose members regularly bartered inside information.”

In the beginning, when the club was first formed, there was a spirit of camaraderie, as the members happily traded tips for everyone’s mutual benefit. Unfortunately, things started to break down when some people agreed to cooperate with the government by recording their friends admitting wrongdoing in exchange for leniency. Former Diamondback analyst Jesse Tortora, for instance, attempted to incriminate fellow club member Danny Kuo on a call the FBI directed him to make on December 1, 2010, a conversation that Chiasson and Newman’s lawyers are now trying to use as evidence that Tortora, who will be testifying against them lacks credibility, based on the fact that when asked by Kuo if his phone was being tapped, Tortora didn’t say “Yup! Helping the Feds build a case against you, actually.” Instead he went with this:

“What’s happening, man?” Tortora asked during the call, according to a transcript prosecutors submitted to the court.

“Dude, is your phone tapped?” Kuo replied.

“Wait, is the phone tapped?” Tortora asked, adding, “Why do you ask that?”

Read more »

Remember, about a year ago, when hedge fund Level Global was rumored to have a government mole in its ranks? At the time, the firm’s representatives said such reports were total bull shit, and, investors were told, here’s how they knew that to be the case:

“As is the case each time there is a new development in the U.S. Attorney’s investigation, we have conducted an extensive internal factual correlation analysis, cross-referencing the facts in the complaints to our firm’s records. Our experienced outside legal counsel has also conducted its own analysis. Based on all of our work and analysis, we have concluded that these complaints do not appear to be referencing Level or Level personnel.”

Frankly, LG was getting a little tired of having to constantly run factual correlation analysis in order to prove the world wrong but c’est la vie. Anyway, despite usually having a 99.9% accuracy rate, the factual correlation calculator apparently missed one.

Last month, federal prosecutors in Manhattan said in a court filing in the case of a PGR employee that Level Global had made a $1.7 million profit by covering a short position it had in Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. in June 2009. That May and June, a Level Global technology analyst had about seven phone calls with Manosha Karunatilaka, a PGR expert who worked at TSMC and has pleaded guilty to supplying inside information to investment fund clients, prosecutors said. The Level Global technology analyst, Spyridon “Sam” Adondakis, was overseen by Mr. Chiasson and is cooperating with the government’s investigation, the Journal has previously reported, citing people familiar with the situation.

And now this is happening: Read more »