Maybe Accused Insider Trader Timothy McGee Thought Intel Obtained In AA Meetings Got A Free Pass Under Securities Laws?

Pop quiz: you're an insider trader looking to score some fresh intel. You've exhausted all of your sources and what's more, you're sick of just hitting them up for tips-- you want to make obtaining material non-public information fun again. You figure the best way to go about that is to identify a target with obvious vulnerabilities that can be exploited for profit (always a good time). Do you a) go with the Danielle Chiesi move (i.e. requesting info post or, better yet, mid-coitus) b) get ordained as a Catholic priest and press penitents for potential market moving news during confession or c) go for broke: start attending AA meetings, become someone's sponsor and then, when he/she's confiding in you that the stress of his/her job at a certain company has been driving him/her to down a bottle of vodka every night, move in for the kill? If you're Timothy J. McGee, the answer is simple. The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged two financial advisors and three others in their circle of family and friends with insider trading for more than $1.8 million in illicit profits based on confidential information about a Philadelphia-based insurance holding company’s merger negotiations with a Japanese firm. The SEC alleges that Timothy J. McGee and Michael W. Zirinsky, who are registered representatives at Ameriprise Financial Services, illegally traded in the stock of Philadelphia Consolidated Holding Corp. (PHLY) based on nonpublic information about the company’s impending merger with Tokio Marine Holdings. McGee obtained the inside information from a PHLY senior executive who was confiding in him through their relationship at Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) about pressures he was confronting at work. McGee then purchased PHLY stock in advance of the merger announcement on July 23, 2008, and made a $292,128 profit when the stock price jumped 64 percent that day. “McGee stole information shared with him in the utmost confidence, and as securities industry professionals he and Zirinsky clearly knew better,” said Elaine C. Greenberg, Associate Director of the SEC’s Philadelphia Regional Office. “As this case demonstrates, we will follow each link in a tipping chain all the way to Hong Kong if necessary.” From the complaint: In early July 2008, immediately after an AA meeting, the Insider confined to McGee that he had been drinking as a result of the mounting pressure, and revealed to McGee that the source of the pressure was ongoing confidential negotiations to sell PHLY. The Insider told McGee that the stress generated from his participation in the negotiations was having a negative impact on his personal life. In response, McGee expressed interest in the details of the PHLY sale and questioned the Insider about the details fo the impending deal. SEC Charges Five With Insider Trading on Confidential Merger Negotiations Between Philadelphia Company and Japanese Firm [SEC]
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Pop quiz: you're an insider trader looking to score some fresh intel. You've exhausted all of your sources and what's more, you're sick of just hitting them up for tips-- you want to make obtaining material non-public information fun again. You figure the best way to go about that is to identify a target with obvious vulnerabilities that can be exploited for profit (always a good time). Do you a) go with the Danielle Chiesi move (i.e. requesting info post or, better yet, mid-coitus) b) get ordained as a Catholic priest and press penitents for potential market moving news during confession or c) go for broke: start attending AA meetings, become someone's sponsor and then, when he/she's confiding in you that the stress of his/her job at a certain company has been driving him/her to down a bottle of vodka every night, move in for the kill? If you're Timothy J. McGee, C just feels so right.

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged two financial advisors and three others in their circle of family and friends with insider trading for more than $1.8 million in illicit profits based on confidential information about a Philadelphia-based insurance holding company’s merger negotiations with a Japanese firm. The SEC alleges that Timothy J. McGee and Michael W. Zirinsky, who are registered representatives at Ameriprise Financial Services, illegally traded in the stock of Philadelphia Consolidated Holding Corp. (PHLY) based on nonpublic information about the company’s impending merger with Tokio Marine Holdings. McGee obtained the inside information from a PHLY senior executive who was confiding in him through their relationship at Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) about pressures he was confronting at work. McGee then purchased PHLY stock in advance of the merger announcement on July 23, 2008, and made a $292,128 profit when the stock price jumped 64 percent that day.

“McGee stole information shared with him in the utmost confidence, and as securities industry professionals he and Zirinsky clearly knew better,” said Elaine C. Greenberg, Associate Director of the SEC’s Philadelphia Regional Office. “As this case demonstrates, we will follow each link in a tipping chain all the way to Hong Kong if necessary.”

From the complaint:

In early July 2008, immediately after an AA meeting, the Insider confined to McGee that he had been drinking as a result of the mounting pressure, and revealed to McGee that the source of the pressure was ongoing confidential negotiations to sell PHLY. The Insider told McGee that the stress generated from his participation in the negotiations was having a negative impact on his personal life. In response, McGee expressed interest in the details of the PHLY sale and questioned the Insider about the details fo the impending deal.

SEC Charges Five With Insider Trading on Confidential Merger Negotiations Between Philadelphia Company and Japanese Firm [SEC]

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Members Of Insider Trading "Club" Were Good At Obtaining Material Non-Public Information, Not So Good At Playing It Cool On Conversations Recorded By The Feds

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 club 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, gave fellow club member Danny Kuo a call at the direction of the FBI on December 1, 2010, a conversation that Chiasson and Newman's lawyers are 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." “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?” Despite losing major points for repeating the question-- you never repeat the question!-- and the extremely unconvincing "Oh, why do you ask" attempt to act natural and not like he was working for the government, Tortora ultimately recovered. After Kuo and Tortora discussed defense strategy to explain their trades were made after legitimate research, Kuo concluded the call with a final warning to Tortora about making future calls from a personal telephone, according to the transcript. “I would seriously invest in some quarters, and start calling from 7-Elevens,” Kuo said. Hedge Fund Founder Faces Jury as FBI Raids Yield Trial [Bloomberg]

David Slaine, Government's Undercover "Tip-Mining Machine," Apparently Under The Impression Insider Trading Works On A 3-Strike Basis

Remember David Slaine? For those who need a refresher, he is the former Morgan Stanley managing director and ex-Galleon trader who began working as an FBI informant in 2007 and who was outed for doing so by the Wall Street Journal in January 2010. At the time, we learned a few notable things about Slaine, some of them germane to his role in helping the government go after people trading on material non-public information, others special in their own way, like: 1. He takes french fries, and perhaps all snacks, very seriously. In 1993, Slaine triggered a fist-fight with a colleague on the trading floor after needling him because he wouldn’t share his french fries. Others broke up the fight. 2. He doesn't wait for people to towel off and get dressed before knocking their teeth out. One morning early in 2001, before trading began, Gary Rosenbach, then was the No. 2 executive under Mr. Rajaratnam, and Slaine were in a steam room together after exercising at an Equinox Fitness Club. Mr. Rosenbach was pressuring Mr. Slaine to improve his performance. As Mr. Rosenbach lay on his back on a bench, Mr. Slaine punched him, giving him a black eye and ending their friendship. 3. Humans aren't the only ones often asked "you want a piece of me?" He once smashed a computer keyboard in a fit of rage, says a person familiar with the incident. 4. While working on Wall Street, he eschewed the traditional channels of employee recruitment (Wharton, etc), preferring instead to pick up fresh analysts at the club. While at Morgan Stanley, he met [Craig] Drimal, then a nightclub bouncer at the Vertical Club in Manhattan. The two quickly formed a friendship based on a shared passion for weight lifting and their mutual ability to bench-press 400 pounds...Shortly after arriving at Galleon, Mr. Slaine persuaded Galleon officials to give a position to Mr. Drimal, who then was working as a bouncer at the Roxy nightclub in Manhattan. 5. Being a person with whom he "formed a friendship based on a shared passion for weight lifting and [a] mutual ability to bench-press 400 pounds," possibly the greatest line written about anyone who's ever worked on Wall Street and which which cannot be said enough, means little in the long run if he knows you've been playing it fast and loose with securites laws. In July 2007, the FBI showed up at Mr. Slaine's door on W. 57th Street in Manhattan and confronted him. Mr. Slaine agreed to help the government. At the time, federal prosecutors in Manhattan were trying to make headway on another investigation that eventually led to the charges involving Galleon. They asked Mr. Slaine who he knew that might be participating in insider trading. Mr. Slaine's answer: his friend Mr. Drimal, according to people familiar with the matter. In September 2007, Mr. Slaine—identified in the complaint as CS-1—tried out his body wire for the first time, meeting Mr. Drimal in New York. During the meeting, Mr. Drimal gave Mr. Slaine a piece of paper with four stock symbols, according to the complaint. He told Mr. Slaine the four companies were all acquisition targets. At the meeting's end, Mr. Drimal told Mr. Slaine to destroy the list. He warned him to "be careful" in trading the securities because no news of the takeovers had surfaced publicly...After the meeting, Mr. Slaine went to a nearby hotel where an FBI agent was waiting, says a person familiar with the matter. The pair went to a room where Mr. Slaine removed the wire. Anyway, Bloomberg recently checked in to see what Slaine's been up to these last couple years and other than his "multi-year experience" with the FBI being "tremendously traumatic," he seems to be doing pretty well.

Rajat Gupta Defense Team: You Think Our Client Would Pass Inside Information To A Guy Who Didn't Even Have The Decency To Invite Him To His Birthday Party?

What motivates people to share material non-public information with a person they know will use it for profit? For some, it's simply about greed. For others, it's about the thrill. For yet others, it's about pillow talk. For Rajat Gupta, the McKinsey director currently on trial for allegedly passing inside information to Raj Rajaratnam, it's about friendship, according to prosecutors who are trying to make the case that Raj and Rajat were the best of buds and that's what buds do. They they back each other up when they drunkenly hit on the girlfriend of the wrong guy at the bar, they stand up as best men at each others' weddings, they pick up the phone and say "Buy GS" when they know for a fact Warren Buffett is about to do so, too. And although attorneys representing Gupta don't deny the two were thick as thieves, they argue that while perhaps back in the day Rajat would have provided useful information to Raj, there is no way he would have done so after Big R twice violated the bonds of friendship. In the first instance, there was this: Defense attorneys have argued that Messrs. Gupta and Rajaratnam had a falling out in fall 2008 after Mr. Gupta lost his entire $10 million investment in a fund managed by Mr. Rajaratnam and therefore wouldn't have passed along inside information...The precise timing of their relationship's deterioration could be crucial in proving Mr. Gupta's guilt or raising doubts in the minds of jurors about whether he conspired to commit securities fraud...Defense attorneys have said Mr. Gupta was furious at Mr. Rajaratnam in the fall of 2008, when Mr. Gupta's $10 million investment in a fund called Voyager Capital Partners Ltd. evaporated. According to Mr. Kumar's testimony, Mr. Gupta felt Mr. Rajaratnam's negligence had allowed Voyager to collapse. And then this happened: