Expert network firm at center of hedge fund probe

* Criminal complaint details expert networks’ tactics

* Longoria was considered a top consultant by Fleishman

* Consultation payments by cash, check, “soft dollars”

BOSTON, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Tony Longoria had a way of talking about numbers in the technology industry that made him very popular with certain hedge fund managers.

As a manager at Advanced Micro Devices AMD.N, Longoria said he knew someone in the company's finance department who supplied him with quarterly earnings numbers, which he passed to investment managers hours before the results were released, according to the U.S. government.

Now, Longoria is one of several people who have been arrested in the government’s probe into insider trading on Wall Street and how expert networking firms might traffic in private information that could give investment managers a brief edge.

On telephone calls recorded by the U.S. government, Longoria, executives at expert networking firm Primary Global Research, where Longoria consulted for four years, and hedge fund managers spoke freely about seeking and obtaining non-public information, according to the complaint.

“Yeah, I’ve got a buddy that works in, in finance, that, uh, gives, uh, me all the, uh, nitty gritty details, probably more than I can understand,” Longoria told an investor on July 21, 2009, explaining how he came to know exactly what AMD’s revenue numbers and forecasts would be.

While the men use code words, there seems to be little doubt that executives at the expert networking firm have the goods that hedge funds want and are willing to share.

Even as the government’s insider trading probe broke into the public with nearly two dozen arrests last year, Longoria, the technology industry executive, and James Fleishman, an expert networking executive, calmed their nerves that they were not on the government’s radar.

Indeed, Longoria, who ranked as one of the top consultants at Primary Global Research, spoke with more than one person about AMD’s numbers the day they were scheduled to be announced last year, the government said in its complaint.

Mark Anthony Longoria, Walter Shimoon, James Fleishman and Manosha Karunatilaka were charged with committing securities fraud for shuttling illegal information between industry experts and investment managers, the government said.

Fleishman, an account executive at Primary Global, freely praised Longoria as one the firm’s best consultants. “He’s definitely one of our top guys in terms of, you know, everything that we look for, like, you know,” Fleishman said on a recorded line.

Fleishman assured hedge fund clients of complete privacy and anonymity, noting that even last names are not exchanged to keep things discreet. He assured one client, “We don’t listen to the call or, or record the call or anything.” And he even volunteered to let the clients call his experts directly.

Payment for the consultations, the government said, were made by cash and check or through “soft dollars,” a way of paying brokerage firms for their services through commission revenue.

When the government began probing insider trading in the technology industry and arrested Raj Rajaratnam, founder of hedge fund firm Galleon Group, a year ago, Longoria got a little nervous. But Fleishman assured him there was no reason to worry.

Media reports about Rajaratnam worried Longoria. “I was, like, really getting nervous. And then it even said in there that they were trading AMD,” Longoria said. But Fleishman said that Galleon was not a client.

“OK, good. So there’s no way they can tie ‘em back to me,” Longoria said.

(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss. Editing by Robert MacMillan)

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