SEC Charges Research Analyst with Trading and Tipping Ahead of IBM-SPSS Merger
The Securities and Exchange Commission recently announced additional charges in an insider trading case against two brokers who traded on nonpublic information ahead of IBM Corporation’s acquisition of SPSS Inc.
In an amended complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan, the SEC is now charging research analyst Trent Martin, who was the brokers’ source of confidential information in an insider trading scheme that yielded more than $1 million in illicit profits. Martin worked at a brokerage firm in Connecticut and specialized in Australian equity investments, and he learned nonpublic information about the impending IBM-SPSS transaction from an attorney friend who was working on the deal. Rather than maintaining the confidence of the information, Martin used the information for his own benefit, purchasing SPSS securities and subsequently tipping his roommate Thomas C. Conradt, who traded and tipped his friend and fellow retail broker David J. Weishaus. Martin was specifically named as their source in instant messages between Conradt and Weishaus about their illegal trading.
The SEC charged Conradt and Weishaus with insider trading on November 29. Martin, who fled the U.S. to Australia soon after learning about the SEC’s investigation, currently lives in Hong Kong.
The SEC alleges that Martin’s attorney friend expected him to maintain information in confidence and refrain from illegal trading or disclosing it to others. The attorney sought moral support, reassurance, and advice when he privately told Martin about his new assignment working on the IBM-SPSS acquisition. The lawyer disclosed to Martin such details as the anticipated transaction price and the identities of the acquiring and target companies while he was describing the magnitude of the assignment.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Martin attempted to purchase SPSS common stock on the very first business day after learning the nonpublic information from his friend. His first three orders were cancelled because he did not have sufficient funds in the account to make the purchases, but he later wired $50,000 from his checking account into his brokerage account to purchase SPSS shares.
The SEC’s complaint alleges that Martin, Conradt and Weishaus violated Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5. The SEC is seeking disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest and financial penalties, and a permanent injunction against the brokers.
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