(Adds details from decision, background, case citation, bylines)
By Jonathan Stempel and Nate Raymond
NEW YORK, June 18 (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Wednesday granted final approval to a $602 million insider trading accord between a unit of billionaire Steven A. Cohen’s SAC Capital Advisors LP and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
In April 2013, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in Manhattan had raised concerns about the accord with CR Intrinsic Investors LLC because it contained language that did not require the unit to admit or deny the regulator’s charges.
Marrero had made approval contingent on the outcome of a separate case involving a $285 million settlement between the SEC and Citigroup Inc, which U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, who sits on the same court, had in 2011 rejected.
On June 4, a federal appeals court voided that rejection and returned the accord to Rakoff, saying it was improper for judges to require the SEC to establish the truth of its allegations as a condition of approvals.
In light of the reasoning in that decision, Marrero said he was persuaded that the SEC settlement with CR Intrinsic was “fair and reasonable.”
But he said his delay in granting approval highlighted the SEC’s need to apply a “more rigorous inquiry” in using “neither admit nor deny” provisions in cases such as CR Intrinsic, where parallel criminal actions were pending.
Since April 2013, SAC agreed to pay $1.2 billion and plead guilty to related criminal insider trading charges, while a jury found former CR Intrinsic portfolio manager Mathew Martoma guilty of insider trading.
Marrero, in his decision on Wednesday, said these changed circumstances had cast the SEC’s “neither admit nor deny” settlement with CR Intrinsic in a “different light.”
“In such instances, there may be value in a wait-and-see approach before rushing into a settlement and hurrying to a district court to seek approval of a proposed consent decree,” Marrero wrote.
SAC is now called Point72 Asset Management. Representatives for Point72 and the SEC declined to comment.
The accord was one of two insider trading settlements the SEC announced in March 2013 with SAC, totaling $615.7 million.
It accused CR Intrinsic of insider trading in Elan Corp and Wyeth, now owned by Pfizer Inc, ahead of the release of results of an Alzheimer’s drug trial, resulting in $275 million of improper gains.
Martoma is scheduled to be sentenced on July 28. Court probation officers have recommended a prison term of up to 20 years, which would be a U.S. record for insider trading.
The case is SEC v. CR Intrinsic Investors LLC et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-08466. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Nate Raymond; Editing by David Gregorio and Lisa Shumaker)