Former Investment Bank Analyst and His College Friend Plead Guilty to Insider Trading Scheme
The Securities and Exchange Commission recently announced that Jauyo “Jason” Lee, 29, of New York, and Victor Chen, 29, of Sunnyvale, Calif., both pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and one count of securities fraud for their roles in an insider trading scheme.
The criminal charges filed by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California arose out of the same facts that were the subject of a civil action that the SEC filed against Lee and Chen on September 27, 2012. The SEC’s complaint alleged that Lee, who worked in the San Francisco office of Leerink Swann LLC, gleaned sensitive, nonpublic information about two upcoming deals from unsuspecting co-workers involved with those clients and by reviewing various internal documents about the transactions, which involved medical device companies. Lee tipped Chen, his longtime college friend with the confidential information, and Chen traded heavily on the basis of the nonpublic details that Lee had a duty to protect. Chen made more than $600,000 in illicit profits, which was a 237 percent return on his initial investment. Bank records reveal a pattern of large cash withdrawals by Lee followed by large cash deposits by Chen, who then used the money for the insider trading.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Lee was first privy to information about Leerink’s client Syneron Medical Ltd., which was negotiating an acquisition of Candela Corporation in 2009. He later learned that Leerink’s client Somanetics Corporation was in the process of being acquired by Covidien plc. in 2010. As Lee collected nonpublic details about each of the deals, he communicated with Chen repeatedly and exchanged dozens of phone calls and text messages. Some of the calls took place from Lee’s office telephone at Leerink. Lee had a duty to preserve the confidentiality of the information that he received in the course of his employment at Leerink.
The SEC alleged that in the days leading up to the public announcements of each of these deals, Chen made sizeable purchases of stock and call options in Candela and Somanetics and made unusual trades in the securities of each of these acquisition targets. Chen had never previously bought securities in these companies, yet he suddenly spent a significant portion of his available cash to buy the Candela and Somanetics securities. Chen proceeded to sell most of his Candela and Somanetics holdings once public announcements were made about the transactions. Because Chen made some of his trades in his sister Jennifer Chen’s account, the SEC’s complaint also names her as a relief defendant for the purposes of recovering the illegal profits in her account.
As a result of their conduct, the SEC’s complaint charged Lee and Chen with violations of Sections 10(b) and 14(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rules 10b-5 and 14e-3 thereunder. The SEC, whose case is still pending, is seeking disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest, civil penalties, and permanent injunctions against Lee and Chen.
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