There has been lots of breathless commentary in the financial press and the blogosphere over the SEC’s August 2021 filing of an insider-trading case involving so-called “shadow trading.” Shadow trading as defined in a 2020 academic paper occurs when someone possessing material, nonpublic information (“MNPI”) obtained from his or her employer uses it to trade in the securities of a competitor or economically-linked public company.[1]  This is in contrast to the more usual insider trading, in which the stock being traded is that of the subject company. In Panuwat, the defendant is charged with misappropriating MNPI from his employer and using it to trade in a competitor’s securities.[2]  Earlier this week, a district court in the Northern District of California denied a motion to dismiss the SEC’s complaint, allowing the enforcement action to proceed.[3]

According to the complaint, the defendant, Matthew Panuwat, learned of an impending merger involving the company he worked for, a mid-sized, oncology-focused biopharmaceutical company.  Within minutes, he bought short-term, out-of-the-money stock options in another mid-sized oncology-focused biopharmaceutical that investment bankers had identified as a competitor.  The defendant allegedly deduced that the announcement of the buy-out of his employer would lead to a rise in the price not only of his employer’s stock, but that of its competitor.

Commentators have universally labeled this case the first shadow trading enforcement action following the 2020 academic paper.  But is it truly unprecedented?  Not exactly.  In fact, a prior case that involved MNPI misappropriated from an employer and used to trade other companies’ securities went to a jury trial and resulted in liability for the trader.

Continue Reading SEC Complaint Upheld in Rare – But Not Unprecedented – Shadow Trading Case

On December 20, 2021, the SEC[1] and DOJ[2] each announced fraud charges against five Russian nationals. The five defendants are charged with a multiyear scheme of hacking into service providers that help public companies make quarterly and annual filings with the SEC through the EDGAR filing system.  By hacking the service providers, the

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission recently charged two individuals— Florida residents, Suyun Gu, and his friend, Yong Lee—for their involvement in allegedly fraudulent wash sales involving out-of-the-money options in “meme stocks.” So-called “meme stocks” [1] are stocks that were being actively promoted on social media in early 2021.
Continue Reading SEC Charges Case Featuring Alleged Wash Sales Involving Options of “Meme Stocks”

Today the SEC [1] and the DOJ [2] announced civil and criminal charges involving an alleged brazen $8 million insider-trading scheme.   The trader, Dayakar Mallu, allegedly traded ahead of four public announcements by his former employer, Mylan N.V., between October 3, 2017, and July 29, 2019.  He allegedly obtained material nonpublic information from a friend

On August 16, 2021, the financial thresholds specified in the definition of “qualified client” under Rule 205‑3 of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”) will increase (i) from $1 million to $1.1 million (assets under management test), and (ii) from $2.1 million to $2.2 million (net worth test).  Contracts entered into prior to August 16, 2021 will be “grandfathered” in and will not be subject to the adjusted dollar amounts, unless a client who was not a party to such contract becomes a party following this effective date.  Investment advisers and fund managers should consider whether their agreements must be updated to reflect the new thresholds.

Continue Reading SEC Increases Financial Thresholds for Qualified Clients

Reuters reported today that the SEC is investigating last year’s hack of SolarWinds, focusing on whether SEC registrants failed to disclose that they had been impacted by the cyber breach.[1]   According to the article, the SEC sent voluntary requests for information to “a number of public issuers and investment firms…”  The SEC is

“Naked short selling” is often claimed by struggling public companies to be the source of their woes.  But there have been relatively few cases addressing naked short selling.  Recently, however, on   May 19, 2021, the SEC charged a broker-dealer (“BD”) with violating the order-making and locate provisions of Regulation SHO.[1]  Regulation SHO regulates short sales of securities and, broadly speaking, is aimed at minimizing naked short selling, failures to deliver, and other practices.

What is Short Selling?
According to the SEC’s Complaint, “[s]hort selling occurs when an investor borrows a security and sells it on the open market, planning to buy it back later for less money.”[2]  Thus, short sellers profit from a decline in the price of a security.  This is in contrast to “long” investors, who profit from an increase in the price of a security.  Short selling is very risky: losses are unlimited because the price of a security can always increase.

What is Regulation SHO?
Regulation SHO, enacted in 2005, established “locate” and “close-out” requirements.  Rule 200(g) of Regulation SHO requires BDs to mark all orders to sell stock as “long,” “short,” or “short-exempt.”[3]
Continue Reading SEC Brings “Naked Short Selling” Case

On April 1, 2021, the Texas State Securities Board (TSSB) announced the entry of a Consent Order against an SEC registered investment adviser named Independent Financial Group, LLC (“Independent”). The TSSB’s action may represent a large shift in investment adviser regulation and enforcement considerations for SEC-registered investment advisers. (Emphasis on “may.”)
Continue Reading SEC Investment Advisers: Texas says “April Fools!” to Federal Preemption?

Capital raising through Special-Purpose Acquisition Companies (“SPACs”) has gone through the roof in the last two years.  Last year was by far the single highest deal value for SPACs, and the first quarter of 2021 has already surpassed last year’s total deal value.[1]  Given the explosion of SPAC transactions, often backed by celebrities, it is a safe bet that the SEC will increase its scrutiny of SPACs.

In fact, on March 25, 2021, Reuters reported that the SEC has requested voluntary information from Wall Street banks on SPAC deals.[2]  Whether this inquiry broadens into a full-scale industry sweep remains to be seen, but it is clear that the hotbed of SPAC activity has captured regulatory attention.  Also notable is that the plaintiffs’ bar has been filing lots of cases arising from SPAC transactions, which can be a harbinger of SEC inquiries.  For these reasons, it is important to understand the regulatory risks of these deals.

Continue Reading SPACs in the Spotlight: Skyrocketing Deal Volume Invites Regulatory Scrutiny