Insider-Trading Appeal Would Really Shake Things Up In The Vanishingly Small Likelihood It Succeeds

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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, nonehavesucceeded, 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.

The outcome of the appeal, which centers on two former hedge-fund managers, could threaten some of the convictions won by prosecutors in their yearslong crackdown on insider trading….

The appeal is being pursued by Todd Newman and Anthony Chiasson, two portfolio managers whose 2012 insider-trading convictions were a significant victory for prosecutors. The two men, free on bail pending the appeal, are seeking to have their convictions overturned. Their case is scheduled to be heard Tuesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan….

Messrs. Newman and Chiasson were so-called downstream tippees—meaning they didn't receive information on technology companies Dell Inc. and Nvidia Corp. directly from its source, but were one or more layers removed….

Lawyers for Messrs. Newman and Chiasson say prosecutors must show that their clients knew the tippers were somehow compensated for the tips and that the judge's instruction was erroneous. The inside tips on which the pair traded were conveyed through a network of analysts before reaching analysts who worked for Messrs. Chiasson and Newman, the lawyers said in court documents. Their clients didn't seek out or knowingly use inside information, they said.

Prosecutors have said they need only show that people who used the tips were aware the tipper disclosed the nonpublic information in breach of a fiduciary duty when they traded on it….
f the court rules in favor of Messrs. Chiasson and Newman, defense lawyers will have new ammunition to overturn several high-profile convictions, including that of Michael Steinberg, a former SAC Capital LP portfolio manager, in December.

Court Case May Help Define ‘Insider Trading’ [WSJ]

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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]