Securities Law Prof Blog

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

Thursday, March 8, 2012

SEC Charges Former Exec at Coca-Cola Enterprises with Insider Trading

The SEC today charged Steve Harrold, a former executive at a Coca-Cola bottling company, with insider trading based on confidential information he learned on the job about potential upcoming business with The Coca-Cola Company.  According to the SEC, Harrold, who was a Vice President at Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., purchased company stock in his wife’s brokerage account after learning that his company had agreed to acquire The Coca-Cola Company’s bottling operations in Norway and Sweden. The stock price jumped 30 percent when the deal was announced publicly the following day, enabling Harrold to make an illicit $86,850 profit.

Coca-Cola Enterprises is one of the world’s largest marketers, producers and distributors of Coca-Cola products, and its stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the stock symbol CCE. The Coca-Cola Company (ticker symbol: KO) develops and sells its products and syrup concentrate to Coca-Cola Enterprises and other bottlers.

The SEC alleges that Harrold, who lives in Los Angeles and London, was informed in early January 2010 that CCE was considering the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Company’s Norwegian and Swedish bottling operations. He signed a non-disclosure agreement requiring him to maintain the confidentiality of any nonpublic information he learned about the potential transaction. Harrold also received an e-mail from CCE’s legal counsel informing him that he was subject to a blackout period and was prohibited from trading in CCE stock “until further notice.”

Nevertheless, the SEC alleges that Harrold purchased 15,000 CCE shares in his wife’s brokerage account on Feb. 24, 2010, the day before the announcement of the transaction with The Coca-Cola Company. The insider trading was based on certain confidential information that Harrold learned in the days leading up to the announcement, including that the transaction was internally valued at more than $800 million and was viewed as creating significant positive growth opportunities for CCE.

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