On October 18, 2019, the US Securities and Exchange Commission charged a trader and an investment banker for participating in an insider trading scheme involving the stock of two public companies prior to the public release of information about their potential acquisition by other companies. One of the men charged is Bryan Cohen, who obtained non-public information through his employment in an investment bank. According to the complaint, Cohen shared the information with his co-defendant Georgios Nikas, who gained over $2.6 million by trading on the non-public information. The SEC also obtained an order freezing the defendants’ assets; the agency seeks disgorgement, penalties, interest and injunctive relief.
In parallel to the civil action by the SEC, on October 22, 2019, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York unsealed criminal indictments against Cohen, Nikas, and four co-defendants in Europe and the US. The indictments allege that the six individuals formed a global insider trading ring, through which insiders at investment banks, and relatives of corporate insiders, obtained material non-public information and sold it to securities traders, who earned tens of millions of dollars in illegal profits by trading on the information. The group is alleged to have concealed its activity, which took place over a period of years, by using unregistered cellphones and encrypted applications. Charges against the six include wire fraud and securities fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and securities fraud, and fraud in connection with a tender offer.