* SEC says Scammell learned about Disney’s plan to buy Marvel
* Scammell got details about the plan from girlfriend -SEC
* Scammell used brother’s money to buy call options -SEC (Adds complaint details, comments from lawyer, Disney)
By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON, Aug 11 (Reuters) - U.S. securities regulators have charged a California man with insider trading for buying speculative call options on Marvel Entertainment after learning that Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) planned to acquire the comic-book superhero company.
Toby Scammell, 26, is alleged to have bought Marvel call options in August 2009 after learning about the planned acquisition from his girlfriend of two years, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission complaint filed in a California federal court.
Scammell’s girlfriend worked on the Marvel acquisition as a six-month temporary employee in Disney’s corporate strategy department and knew the details about the pricing and timing of the deal, the SEC said.
Scammell secretly used the money in his older brother’s accounts, which he had gained control over when his brother was deployed with the U.S. Army to Iraq in 2007, the agency said.
Just before he bought the Marvel options, Scammell searched the Internet for terms like “insider trading” and “material, non-public information,” the SEC complaint said.
Scammell did not reveal his trades or profits to his brother or his girlfriend, the SEC said.
The SEC said the investigation was continuing.
Miles Ehrlich, an attorney for Scammell, said that after nearly 18 months of investigation -- where the SEC spoke to every possible witness, scrutinized every document, and analyzed every email, every text, every instant message, and every website Toby visited -- the SEC still cannot identify a day, a time, a place, a conversation, a document, or anything bearing even a passing resemblance to proof as to how Toby supposedly learned the inside information.
“Scammell exploited his romantic relationship for a financial windfall. His misuse of confidential information gave him an unfair and illegal edge over other traders in the markets,” said Rosalind Tyson, the director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office.
In the weeks before announcement of the deal, the SEC said Scammell bought call options with strike prices of $50 and $45 -- something the agency said was “highly remarkable” because the stock price had never closed above $41.74 and the options were set to expire in a few weeks.
He later sold the options for a profit of more than $192,000, or a 3,000 percent return, in less than a month, the SEC said.
The agency noted he had never traded in Marvel before and only had one other “very unsuccessful” prior experience trading call options. The SEC said he worked at the time for an investment fund, although the complaint does not identify the name of his former employer.
The SEC complaint said Scammell now lives in Greenbrae, California.
A Disney spokeswoman said on Thursday that “this does not involve Disney and the complaint speaks for itself.” (Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; additional reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Editing by Gary Hill, Phil Berlowitz)