Tuesday, May 22, 2012
The SEC today charged a former executive at Yahoo! Inc. and a former mutual fund manager at a subsidiary of Ameriprise Financial Inc. with insider trading on confidential information about a search engine partnership between Yahoo and Microsoft Corporation. The SEC alleges that Robert W. Kwok, who was Yahoo's senior director of business management, told Reema D. Shah in July 2009 that a deal between Yahoo and Microsoft would be announced soon. Shah had reached out to Kwok amid market rumors of an impending partnership between the two companies, and Kwok told her the information was kept quiet at Yahoo and only a few people knew of the coming announcement. Based on Kwok's illegal tip, Shah prompted the mutual funds she managed to buy more than 700,000 shares of Yahoo stock that were later sold for profits of approximately $389,000.
The SEC further alleges that a year earlier, the roles were reversed. Shah tipped Kwok with material nonpublic information about an impending acquisition announcement between two other companies. Kwok traded in a personal account based on the confidential information for profits of $4,754.
Kwok and Shah, who each live in California, have agreed to settle the SEC's charges. Financial penalties and disgorgement will be determined by the court at a later date. Under the settlements, Shah will be permanently barred from the securities industry and Kwok will be permanently barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company.
In a parallel criminal case announced today by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, Kwok has pled guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and Shah has pled guilty to both a primary and conspiracy charge. Both are awaiting sentencing.