Hedge fund hit in $30M fraud case

Washington, D.C., Feb. 8, 2011 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a New York-based hedge fund and four hedge fund portfolio managers and analysts who illegally traded on confidential information obtained from technology company employees moonlighting as expert network consultants. The scheme netted more than $30 million from trades based on material, nonpublic information about such companies as AMD, Seagate Technology, Western Digital, Fairchild Semiconductor, and Marvell.

The charges are the first against traders in the SEC’s ongoing investigation of insider trading involving expert networks. The SEC filed its initial charges in the case last week against technology company employees who illegally tipped hedge funds and other investors with material nonpublic information about their companies in return for hundreds of thousands of dollars in sham consulting fees.

In its amended complaint filed today in federal court in Manhattan, the SEC alleges that four hedge fund portfolio managers and analysts received illegal tips from the expert network consultants and then caused their hedge funds to trade on the inside information.

“It is illegal for company insiders who moonlight as consultants to sell confidential information about their companies to traders, and it is equally illegal to buy that corruptly obtained information and trade on it,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “Instead of competing on a level playing field with other investors, these hedge fund managers sought to illegally trade today on what others would not learn until tomorrow.”

The SEC’s ongoing investigation is focusing on the activities of expert networks that purportedly provide professional investment research to their clients. While it is legal to obtain expert advice and analysis through expert networking arrangements, it is illegal to trade on material nonpublic information obtained in violation of a duty to keep that information confidential.

The technology company insiders who tipped the confidential information were expert network consultants to the firm Primary Global Research LLC (PGR).

The SEC’s amended complaint alleges:

  • Samir Barai of New York, N.Y., the founder and portfolio manager of Barai Capital Management, obtained inside information about several technology firms from company insiders, and then traded on the inside information on behalf of Barai Capital.
  • Jason Pflaum of New York, N.Y., a former technology analyst at Barai Capital Management, obtained inside information about technology companies and shared it with Barai. After Pflaum shared the confidential information with him, Barai used it to illegally trade on behalf of Barai Capital.
  • Noah Freeman of Boston, Mass., a former managing director at a Boston-based hedge fund, obtained inside information regarding Marvell and shared it with Donald Longueuil of New York, N.Y., a former managing director at a Connecticut-based hedge fund. Longueuil caused his hedge fund to trade on the inside information. Freeman also obtained inside information about another technology company and caused his hedge fund to trade on the nonpublic information.

The SEC’s amended complaint charges each of the defendants with violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and additionally charges Barai, Pflaum, Freeman and Longueuil with aiding and abetting others’ violations of Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The complaint also charges Barai, Pflaum and Barai Capital with violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933. The complaint seeks a final judgment permanently enjoining the defendants from future violations of the above provisions of the federal securities laws, ordering them to disgorge their ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest, and ordering them to pay financial penalties.

Sanjay Wadhwa, Jason Friedman, Joseph Sansone, Daniel Marcus — members of the SEC’s Market Abuse Unit in New York — have conducted the SEC’s investigation with Matthew Watkins, Neil Hendelman, Diego Brucculeri and James D’Avino of the New York Regional Office. The SEC’s litigation effort will be led by Valerie Szczepanik and Kevin McGrath. The SEC thanks the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their assistance in the matter.

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