INSIDER TRADING: A GLOBAL PROBLEM
Securities enforcement in recent weeks has been dominated by insider trading investigations and charges. The case which began with the founder of Galleon has already spawned multiple criminal cases, several guilty pleas and civil actions by the SEC. With the investigation continuing and a stream of confidential witness, there is little doubt that more deals will be made and more traders will be charged.
With all the focus on Wall Street, hedge funds and who is a confidential government informant wearing a wire or running a sting operation, it sometimes is easy to overlook the fact that insider trading is not confined to the U.S. markets. Insider trading is a problem which confronts market regulators around the world. In Japan for example, the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission and the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office are conducting a joint investigation into alleged insider trading by Hiroaki Denda, a top salesman with Prudential Life Insurance Co. and Hisashi Watanabe, a former executive board member of a firm affiliated with Tele Wave, now known as SBR. Both were arrested last Thursday in connection with possible insider trading charges in contravention of the Financial Instrument and Exchange Law.
The inquiry centers on a claim that, in November 2006, Mr. Watanabe learned from an employee of IT firm Tele Wave that it was going to revise down its earnings estimates for the period ending in March 2007. In the last two weeks of November, both men sold a substantial number of Tele Wave shares short. When the revised guidance was announced, the share price fell as far as permitted and within a short period by more than half. The investigation is on-going.
Regulators in Japan are also investigating alleged insider trading in the shares of Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., which is controlled by Roche Holding AG. Chugai reportedly is cooperating with a probe which centers on a claim that a company employee furnished inside information to a Prudential Life Insurance Co. employee identified in media reports as Hiroaki Denda.
In Hong Kong Du Jun, a former managing director of Morgan Stanley was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined HK$23.3 million for insider trading. Prior to 2003, insider trading charges were only heard as civil actions by the Insider Dealing Tribunal, an agency which has the authority to impose fines. Now, the cases can be prosecuted criminally. The maximum sentence is 10 years with a fine up to HK$10million.
In France, closed door hearings concluded on Friday before the Financial Markets Authority or AMF on the question of whether 17 current and former executives of EADS, the parent company of Airbus, traded on inside information. The case centers on allegations that the executives traded in advance of the June 2006 announcement by the company of production delays with the new A380 super jumbo project. When the announcement was made, the share price dropped 26%.
The executives involved in the proceeding include former EADS co-president Noel Forgeard who exercised about $3.92 million worth of stock options. In addition, those involved include Jean-PaulGut, former deputy chief executive who oversaw strategy; John Leahy, chief Airbus salesman; Andeas Sperl, director of the EADS site in Dresden, Germany; Olivier Andries, former EADS vice president; Erik Pillet, human resources director; and Alain Flourens, in charge of training centers. As a result of this proceeding, those involved could face substantial fines. Once the probe is completed those involved may also face court action.
Finally, Italian market regulator Consob is probing whether hedge fund Gartmore Group engaged in insider trading in the shares of Banco Italease three years ago. The investigation reportedly centers on alleged tips by the former head of European small cap research at Citigroup to several asset managers days before the bank was to publish a positive report on Banca Italease. Eleven bankers have already been fined in connection with their role in the matter. Gartmore has announced plans to sell shares to the public next month.