The Federal Bureau of Investigation is poised to launch an unprecedented barrage of criminal and civil charges relating to insider trading against leading Wall Street organisations including investment bankers, hedge-fund and mutual-fund traders and consultants and analysts.
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal which quoted unnamed federal authorities, the culmination of a three-year investigations by the FBI will “expose a culture of pervasive insider trading in U.S. financial markets, including new ways non-public information is passed to traders through experts tied to specific industries or companies.”
Authorities also added that the impact of their probe on the financial industry would “eclipse” that of any previous such investigation, especially given their focus on multiple insider-trading rings reaping illegal profits to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.
Two firms mentioned by the government sources, Goldman Sachs Group and Primary Global Research, refused to comment when asked about whether they were being investigated. Goldman Sachs is a major Wall Street investment bank and trading company and Primary Global is a California firm that “connects experts with investors seeking information in the technology, health-care and other industries.”
The Wall Street Journal report also quoted an email from John Kinnucan, a principal at Broadband Research, in which he warned 20 hedge fund and mutual fund clients of a visit by the FBI.
“Today two fresh faced eager beavers from the FBI showed up unannounced (obviously) on my doorstep thoroughly convinced that my clients have been trading on copious inside information,” he said, adding, “We obviously beg to differ, so have therefore declined the young gentleman's gracious offer to wear a wire and therefore ensnare you in their devious web.”
The FBI investigation comes even as U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of Manhattan, New York, kept up the pressure on the insider trading issue. Exactly a year ago Mr. Bharara brought insider trading charges against 14 high-profile Wall Street bankers and consultants including Raj Rajaratnam of Galleon Management, Rajiv Goel of the investment arm of Intel Corporation, Anil Kumar of McKinsey and Company and Robert Moffat of IBM.
All 14 were charged with participating in insider trading schemes that “together netted more than $20 million in illegal profits,” the FBI said, and that case represented the first time that court-authorized wiretaps were used to target significant insider trading on Wall Street.
Earlier this month Mr. Bharara announced that Ali Hariri, a former executive at Atheros Communications, had been sentenced to 18 months in prison for his participation in the “largest hedge fund insider trading case in history.” In that case the court also imposed a two-year term of supervised release and a $50,000 fine.