On January 11, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals denied the appeal of Rajat Gupta, who was seeking to undo his insider trading conviction. Relying on the Second Circuit’s decision in United States v. Newman, Gupta argued that—to satisfy the requirement that Gupta personally benefit from tipping inside information—the Government must show “a quid pro quo – in which [Gupta] receive[d] an ‘objective, consequential . . . gain of a pecuniary or similarly valuable nature.’” In other words—intangible benefits should not, standing alone, constitute a personal benefit sufficient to uphold a criminal conviction. The Second Circuit rejected this argument, finding that the Supreme Court’s decisions in Dirks v. SEC and Salman v. United States foreclosed such a narrow definition of “benefit,” opting instead for a test that looked at “varying sets of circumstances”—including those that involve indirect, intangible, and nonquantifiable gains, such as an anticipated quid quo pro that can be inferred from an ongoing, business relationship—to satisfy the “personal benefit” test. This case is the latest in a line of decisions—in the Supreme Court, as well as the Second and Ninth Circuits—to reject defendants’ arguments for a narrow definition of the “personal benefit” element of insider trading law based on Newman. Continue reading
The recent convictions of two traders for using hacked press releases and the settlement of SEC insider trading charges against a former Equifax manager highlight the significant insider trading risks companies face when dealing with a cyber event. These risks come in two forms.
First, there is the risk that someone (either inside or outside the company) has gained unauthorized electronic access to material nonpublic information (“MNPI”) about the company or one of its business or transaction partners, and will use that information for illegal securities trading purposes. On July 6, a jury in Brooklyn convicted two traders for securities fraud, money laundering and computer intrusion for using hacked press releases to trade on MNPI. To reduce that risk, companies can adopt various cybersecurity measures such as two-factor authentication, access controls, encryption, phishing training, network segmentation, and system monitoring. Davis Polk’s Cyber Portal 2.0, which is now available to our clients, provides detailed checklists and other resources to help companies reduce cybersecurity risks. Continue reading
The Second Circuit has spoken…again. For what seems like the umpteenth time in three years, twice on the same case US v. Martoma, the Circuit put pen to paper to address the controversial personal benefit issue. To understand how we got here…here is a, sort of, brief recap.
Newman shook up the legal world. In US v. Newman, the Second Circuit held that personal benefit (and remember we are talking about it only in relation to a tipper making an improper gift of confidential information to a trading relative or friend) existed where there was a “meaningfully close personal relationship that generates an exchange that is objective, consequential, and represents at least a potential gain of a pecuniary or similarly valuable nature.” This raised all kinds of hullabaloo (yes, I just used the word hullabaloo). Some of us thought Newman was brilliant, some thought it was a disaster. Continue reading
For about 50 years – at least since Texas Gulf Sulphur – the SEC has ordered defendants to disgorge their profits from transactions that violated the securities laws. Despite disgorgement’s long history, in its 2017 opinion in Kokesh v. SEC (PDF: 102 KB), the US Supreme Court put two aspects of the remedy on the table. It applied a five-year statute of limitations to disgorgement. It also reopened old debates over agencies’ power to seek remedies not specified in statute. My article, Disgorgement in Insider Trading Cases: FY2005-FY2015, provides data to inform these debates over the agency’s use of disgorgement and the effects of Kokesh. It reports the results of an empirical study of ten years of the remedies ordered by the SEC in insider trading actions, with particular emphasis on the agency’s reliance on disgorgement. Continue reading
by Tom Hardin
“It is one of the biggest mysteries on Wall Street: Who is Tipper X, the secret witness at the center of the biggest insider-trading case in a generation? The answer is Thomas Hardin — a young investment analyst who, the authorities claim, traded on inside information and may now lead prosecutors to other crucial players…” – New York Times, January 12, 2010
In 2007, while working at a small hedge fund as a 29-year-old technology stock analyst, I received material nonpublic information (MNPI) from another investor on four occasions; three tips regarding upcoming corporate M&A deals and one tip with information about a company’s quarterly earnings announcement. I placed four trades in those shares (in my mind “small” trades). I did not hesitate to make the trades as trading on MNPI seemed rampant within the technology and healthcare stock analyst communities at the time. One well-regarded tech stock focused hedge fund had several of their largest 2006 winning positions as targets of corporate takeovers. Ultimately, my faulty rationalizations led to a career ending, life-altering situation. In July 2008, I was approached by FBI agents on the street outside my apartment and given the chance to help them build larger cases. I became known as “Tipper X” and was credited with helping the FBI build over 20 of the 80+ cases in Operation Perfect Hedge, a Wall Street house cleaning campaign that morphed into the largest insider trading investigation of a generation. Continue reading
Large-scale data breaches can give rise to a host of legal problems for the breached entity, ranging from consumer class action litigation to congressional inquiries and state attorneys general investigations. Increasingly, issuers are also facing the specter of federal securities fraud litigation.
The existence of securities fraud litigation following a cyber breach is, to some extent, not surprising. Lawyer-driven securities litigation often follows stock price declines, even declines that are ostensibly unrelated to any prior public disclosure by an issuer. Until recently, significant declines in stock price following disclosures of cyber breaches were rare. But that is changing. The recent securities fraud class actions brought against Yahoo! and Equifax demonstrate this point; in both of those cases, significant stock price declines followed the disclosure of the breach. Similar cases can be expected whenever stock price declines follow cyber breach disclosures. Continue reading
By Ian Ramsay and Miranda Webster
The following post provides an overview of the key findings from our research on the enforcement outcomes of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) for the five-year period from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2016. The full journal article can be accessed here.
ASIC is Australia’s corporate, markets, financial services and consumer credit regulator. This government organization regulates Australian companies, financial markets, financial services organisations and professionals who deal and advise in investments, superannuation, insurance, deposit taking and credit. ASIC dedicates a significant amount of resources (around 70%) to surveillance and enforcement activity, reflecting its view that enforcement is an important part of its regulatory role. Continue reading
by Walt Pavlo
Since Congress has not specifically defined insider trading, courts have interpreted the Securities Exchange Act’s prohibition against manipulative or deceptive means to determine whether a violation has occurred. The imprecision of securities law has led many people to weigh in on what constitutes a criminal act. Recently, Antonia Apps wrote over 2,000 words on the Second Circuit’s recent insider trading decision, United States v. Martoma, 869 F.3d 58 (2d Cir. 2017), and Greg Morvillo wrote two posts to clarify his thoughts on that case. Can you imagine a crime that is so difficult to define that it continues to spark debate with each new decision from a court? Continue reading
Should individuals sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have to give up, or “disgorge,” corporate gains resulting from a fraud, or just their own direct gains? In an August 29 summary order, SEC v. Metter, the Second Circuit avoided wrestling with this question, but it may be one of the next major battles in the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 5, 2017 decision in Kokesh v. SEC, 137 S. Ct. 1635. Kokesh held that the disgorgement remedy in SEC enforcement actions is a “penalty” for purposes of the five-year limitations period for the “enforcement of any civil fine, penalty, or forfeiture.” 28 U.S.C. § 2462. Many have assumed, on the basis of a footnote in Kokesh, that courts will soon be considering whether they have authority to order disgorgement at all in SEC enforcement actions. That issue certainly lurks, but I suspect that courts first will revisit the proper scope of the remedy, including whether a court may force a defendant to “disgorge” ill-gotten gains that the defendant did not personally receive but that went to third parties, such as individuals and entities associated with the defendant. Continue reading
In a previous post I noted that United States v. Martoma can be read as an attempt to eliminate the personal benefit standard. By holding “that an insider or tipper personally benefits from a disclosure of inside information whenever the information was disclosed ‘with the expectation that [the recipient] would trade on it,’ Salman, 137 S. Ct. at 428, and the disclosure ‘resemble[s] trading by the insider followed by a gift of the profits to the recipient,’ id. at 427 (quoting Dirks, 463 U.S. at 664), whether or not there was a ‘meaningfully close personal relationship’ between the tipper and tippee” the Second Circuit potentially changed the face of insider trading. The aforementioned can be said to cover all intentional transmission of material nonpublic information because what is a gift other than giving something of value to another person. Thus, the Second Circuit has effectively replaced personal benefit with the tipper’s expectation that a recipient will trade. This is a huge change to the insider trading landscape. If true, it arguably reads fraud out of law that sounds in fraud. Continue reading