The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a partner at a New York-based investor relations firm with insider trading on confidential information he learned about two clients while he helped prepare their press releases.
The SEC alleges that Kevin McGrath sold his shares in Misonix Inc. upon learning that the company was set to announce disappointing financial results. The SEC further alleges that McGrath bought stock in Clean Diesel Technologies Inc. when he learned about the company’s impending announcement of positive news, and he profited when its stock price nearly doubled. McGrath’s illicit profits and avoided losses from insider trading in both companies totaled $11,776.
McGrath, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and works at Cameron Associates, agreed to settle the charges by paying disgorgement of $11,776, prejudgment interest of $1,492, and a penalty of $11,776, for a total of $25,044.
“Investor relations firms owe their clients a duty to maintain in strict confidence the important and sensitive information that clients impart for the sole purpose of obtaining help and advice on how best to communicate forthcoming news to investors,” said Andrew M. Calamari, director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. “McGrath’s self-centered misconduct betrayed both his own firm and his firm’s clients whose confidential information he exploited for personal gain.”
The settlement also includes a “conduct-based injunction” that permanently requires McGrath to abstain from trading in the stock of any issuer for which he or his firm has performed any investor relations services within a one-year period. His present or any future firm is required to provide written notice to a client upon any intent to sell shares received as compensation for services performed, and must receive written authorization for the sale from the management of that company.
“McGrath used one hand to help clients draft their press releases while using the other to trade illegally in their stock,” said Sanjay Wadhwa, senior associate director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. “This settlement imposes additional trading limitations on McGrath in the form of a conduct-based injunction to ensure that he doesn’t commit the same transgression again.”
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan, McGrath purchased Misonix shares in April 2009. He later performed work on a press release in which Misonix was set to announce disappointing quarterly results. McGrath ascertained the company’s target date to release the negative news, and sold all of his Misonix shares shortly before the press release was issued on May 11, 2009. By doing so, McGrath avoided losses of $5,400 when Misonix’s share price subsequently dropped 22 percent.
The SEC alleges that McGrath also performed work on a press release in which Clean Diesel was announcing approximately $2 million in orders it received for certain products. Merely minutes after finding out on May 24, 2011, that the press release was bound for issuance the following day, McGrath purchased 1,000 shares of Clean Diesel stock. The stock price rose 95 percent upon the positive news, and McGrath sold all of his Clean Diesel shares on May 27 for illicit profits of $6,376.
The SEC’s complaint charges McGrath with violating Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5. Without admitting or denying the allegations, McGrath agreed to be permanently enjoined from future violations of these provisions of the federal securities laws. The settlement is subject to court approval.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Dina Levy, Daniel Marcus, and George O’Kane. The case was supervised by Mr. Wadhwa and Sharon Binger. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.