Tag Archives: Insider trading

Senate Bill Would Increase SEC Penalties To $1 Million And Up

Under a Senate bill, the SEC would be able to administratively impose a maximum $1 million per violation penalty on individuals and a maximum $10 million per violation penalty on financial firms for the most serious (e.g., fraud, deceit) violations.  The current levels are substantially lower — at $181,071 for individuals and $905,353 for firms — though the SEC is empowered to go to federal court to get the equivalent of the ill-gotten gains in a given case.

Under the proposed measure, the SEC would not have to go to federal court to get large remedies, though the total remedy per violation would be capped – the maximum penalty for an individual could not exceed, for each violation, the greater of (i) $1 million, (ii) three times the gross pecuniary gain, or (iii) the losses incurred by victims as a result of the violation.  The maximum amount that could be obtained from entities could not exceed, for each violation, the greater of (i) $10 million, (ii) three times the gross pecuniary gain, or (iii) the losses incurred by victims as a result of the violation.

In addition, individuals and firms that were found civilly or criminally liable for securities law violations in the 5 years leading up to a new violation could face up to three times the new caps, e.g., penalties of $3 million/$30 million.

It is important to note that SEC administrative or “in-house” courts have faced substantial constitutional challenges recently and are often considered subject to agency bias.  At a minimum, it is clear that the SEC courts lack some of the procedural safeguards provided in federal court.  If the Senate bill becomes law, the SEC will have significantly increased leverage in negotiations with respondents not only because of the amounts involved but because the Enforcement staff would not need to go to federal court to get such amounts.




California DOJ Takes Advantage of “Lower” Insider Trading Standard

The Los Angeles U.S. Attorney has brought charges against a former J.P. Morgan analyst and two of his friends alleging that the analyst tipped deal information he learned while at the bank to his friends.

Ashish Aggarwal, 27, of San Francisco, and two longtime friends surrendered to the FBI Tuesday, after being charged with a scheme that netted over $600,000 due to stock tips. While interesting in and of itself, this case is nationally significant because it appears to be the first use of the Ninth Circuit’s “lower” standard for remote tippee liability under the Salman decision issued on July 6, 2015.

One of the elements of tippee liability is that there be a “personal benefit” to the tipper (here, Aggarwal).   In Salman, the Court found that the personal benefit to the tipper can occur where an “insider makes a gift of confidential information to a trading relative or friend.” That is exactly what is alleged in the Aggarwal case: Aggarwal tipped his boyhood friends.

By contrast, the Second Circuit, in U.S. v. Newman (December 2014) found that the benefit must represent, “at least a potential gain of a pecuniary or similarly valuable nature.” The Court vacated the underlying convictions and the decision has spawned multiple challenges across the country.

Because of Newman’s significance to the Government’s entire insider trading campaign, the Solicitor General, on July 31, 2015, sought review by the Supreme Court. The Court will likely decide in October whether to hear the Newman appeal. Among other things, the Court will look at the Salman decision to determine whether there is a circuit split on these issues.

In the meantime, it is likely that the Aggarwal case will proceed in California, though there will likely be some motion practice seeking a stay pending the outcome in Newman. Here is an article summarizing the charges.