Feds Preparing Charges In Massive Insider Trading Case

UPDATE: Two Connecticut hedge fund offices were raided today by the FBI. Another raided in San Francisco.

I'm not in love with the capitalist system, especially the steroid-bloated version of the past 30 years. But if we're going to have capitalism, the only way it can work for small investors is if we have access to accurate information about the risks. In a system rife with insider-trading, small investors don't have a ghost of a chance, so I hope this investigation ends with some high-profile indictments and convictions:

Federal authorities, capping a three-year investigation, are preparing insider-trading charges that could ensnare consultants, investment bankers, hedge-fund and mutual-fund traders, and analysts across the nation, according to people familiar with the matter.

The criminal and civil probes, which authorities say could eclipse the impact on the financial industry of any previous such investigation, are examining whether multiple insider-trading rings reaped illegal profits totaling tens of millions of dollars, the people say. Some charges could be brought before year-end, they say.

The investigations, if they bear fruit, have the potential to 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, federal authorities say.

One focus of the criminal investigation is examining whether nonpublic information was passed along by independent analysts and consultants who work for companies that provide "expert network" services to hedge funds and mutual funds. These companies set up meetings and calls with current and former managers from hundreds of companies for traders seeking an investing edge.

Among the expert networks whose consultants are being examined, the people say, is Primary Global Research LLC, a Mountain View, Calif., firm that connects experts with investors seeking information in the technology, health-care and other industries.

"I have no comment on that," said Phani Kumar Saripella, Primary Global's chief operating officer.

Primary's chief executive and chief operating officers previously worked at Intel Corp., according to its website.

In another aspect of the probes, prosecutors and regulators are examining whether Goldman Sachs Group Inc. bankers leaked information about transactions, including health-care mergers, in ways that benefited certain investors, the people say. Goldman declined to comment.

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