Securities Law Prof Blog

Editor: Eric C. Chaffee
Univ. of Toledo College of Law

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Former NASDAQ Managing Director Charged with Insider Trading

The SEC today charged Donald L. Johnson, a former managing director of The NASDAQ Stock Market, with multiple instances of insider trading.  According to the SEC’s complaint, Johnson held various positions at the NASD and NASDAQ for 20 years, until his retirement from NASDAQ in September 2009. From at least January 2000 to October 2006, Johnson worked in NASDAQ’s Corporate Client Group (CCG). He then transferred to the Market Intelligence Desk, a specialized department within the CCG that provides issuers with general market updates, overviews of their company’s sector, and commentary regarding the factors influencing day-to-day trading activity in their stocks.

The SEC alleges that, through his positions in the CCG and Market Intelligence Desk, Johnson had frequent and significant interactions with senior executives of NASDAQ-listed issuers, including CEOs, CFOs, and investor relations officers at his assigned companies. In those interactions, company executives routinely shared confidential information with Johnson regarding impending public announcements that could affect the price of their stocks.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Johnson unlawfully traded in advance of nine announcements of material nonpublic information involving NASDAQ-listed companies from August 2006 to July 2009. Johnson took advantage of both favorable and unfavorable information that was entrusted to him in confidence by NASDAQ and its listed companies, shorting stocks on several occasions and establishing long positions in other instances. The complaint also states that Johnson often placed the trades directly from his work computer through an online brokerage account in his wife’s name. The SEC alleges that Johnson reaped illicit profits in excess of $755,000 from his illegal trading.

Johnson also has been charged in a parallel criminal action announced by the U.S. Department of Justice today.

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