August 16, 2021

Former biopharm executive settles with SEC to resolve insider trading charge

On August 10, 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that a settlement was reached with Zorayr Mikael Manukyan-Zakaryan resolving insider trading charges related to alleged improper securities trades that he made before a potential acquisition of AveXis, Inc., an Illinois-based biopharmaceutical company engage in gene therapy treatments for rare neurological disorders, ahead of a public announcement by the company that it agreed to be acquired.  

According to the order, at the time of the trades Manukyan-Zakaryan was the Senior Director of Biostatistics for a well-known global biopharmaceutical company, when he was asked on March 13, 2021 to assist on a due diligence project related to the planned acquisition of AveXis by his employer.  While working on the project, Manukyan-Zakaryan learned material nonpublic information related the acquisition and allegedly chose to purchase shares in AveXis even though, prior to the purchases, he had received a blackout notice from his employer regarding restrictions on trading in AveXis securities.  AveXis was ultimately acquired by a company other than Manukyan-Zakaryan’s employer; however, when the acquisition was announced on April 9, 2021, AveXis’s shares increased by almost 82 percent causing Manukyan-Zakaryan to realize unlawful profits totaling $20,498.63.

As a result of his conduct, Manukyan-Zakaryan was charged by the SEC of violating Section 10(b) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder for engaging in fraudulent conduct in connection with the purchase or sale of securities. Without admitting or denying the charges, Manukyan-Zakaryan agreed to pay a civil money penalty of $40,997.26 and is prohibited from committing or causing any future violations of these Exchange Act provisions.

SEC Press Release | SEC Order