The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that a former consultant to two China-based private equity firms has agreed to pay more than $756,000 to settle insider trading charges.
The SEC alleges that Guolin Ma traded on confidential information he obtained while advising the two firms as they pursued a buyout of Silicon Valley-based OmniVision Technologies, a maker of optical semiconductor devices. Ma, an optical physicist who primarily resides in China, attended key meetings and performed technical due diligence related to the potential acquisition of OmniVision, and he received timeline and strategy documents from the firms.
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in San Jose, Calif., one of the firms advised by Ma joined a group of Chinese investment firms in making a bid to buy OmniVision. Ma stockpiled 39,373 shares of OmniVision stock through a series of purchases in April and May 2014 while possessing nonpublic information. OmniVision’s stock price rose 15 percent when the proposed acquisition was publicly announced in August 2014, allowing Ma to generate $367,387 in illegal profits.
“Guolin Ma breached a duty of trust and confidence to the private equity firms when he bought thousands of shares of OmniVision stock while aware of the impending transaction,” said Joseph G. Sansone, Co-Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Market Abuse Unit. “It was a costly mistake because the settlement requires him to pay back double his illegal trading profits.”
Without admitting or denying the allegations in the SEC’s complaint, Ma agreed to pay disgorgement of $367,387 plus interest of $21,986 and a penalty of $367,387. The settlement is subject to court approval.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Amanda Straub and supervised by Steven Buchholz of the Market Abuse Unit. They were assisted by trial counsel E. Barrett Atwood and Wade Rhyne in the San Francisco Regional Office. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.