UPDATE 1-Research firm exec admits insider trading charges
* Nguyen admits shared illegal tips about medical co Abaxis
* SEC also charges Nguyen, part of focus on "expert network" firms
* Former Galleon employee Adam Smith sentenced to probation
By Basil Katz
NEW YORK, June 26 (Reuters) - An executive at an investment research firm pleaded guilty to an insider trading charge on Tuesday and was the latest person to land in the U.S. government's crosshairs as part of its campaign to root out illicit trading on Wall Street.
Tai Nguyen, 49, of Oregon City, Oregon, is the president of Insight Research LLC. He surrendered to the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday morning and later pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court.
Nguyen told U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald that between 2006 and 2009 he had shared "material non-public information" with hedge fund manager Samir Barai and a former analyst at Steven A. Cohen's SAC Capital Advisors LP, Noah Freeman.
Barai and Freeman are among 64 people who have been convicted or have pleaded guilty in the FBI and federal prosecutors' campaign against insider trading. A total of 70 people have been charged as part of the multi-year sweep.
The best-known defendant in the probe, Galleon Group hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam, was convicted of 14 counts of securities fraud and conspiracy last year and is serving an 11-year prison term.
His case led to the conviction this month of former Goldman Sachs Group Inc board member Rajat Gupta for feeding secret tips to Rajaratnam.
Nguyen pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities and wire fraud. He said he illegally traded and shared stock tips about medical systems company Abaxis Inc .
Nguyen was also charged Tuesday by U.S. securities regulators who, along with prosecutors, have focused on some employees at so-called expert-network firms who they say helped funnel corporate secrets from consultants at companies to hedge funds. Nguyen was also a paid consultant at an unnamed Mountain View, California, expert-network firm.
The Securities and Exchange Commission and prosecutors said Barai and Freeman had been clients of Nguyen's Insight Research and that Nguyen had obtained information on Abaxis from his brother, who worked there. The authorities did not name the brother.
In a simultaneous court proceeding on Tuesday, Adam Smith, a former Galleon employee turned government cooperator, was sentenced to two years probation by U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan. Rakoff also oversaw the Gupta trial.
"I'm incredibly humbled and ashamed," Smith told the court. "I apologize for these decisions."
Smith, 40, was ordered to forfeit $105,3000 to the U.S.
The cases are U.S. v Tai Nguyen and U.S. v Adam Smith, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, 11-0079. A case number for Nguyen was not yet assigned.
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