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Goldman Sachs investment banker charged in insider trading scheme

(Reuters) - A Goldman Sachs Group Inc GS.N investment banker was released on bond and placed on leave by the firm after allegedly being involved in an insider trading scheme, a bank spokeswoman said on Saturday.

Bryan Cohen, a vice president at Goldman Sachs who works in the Consumer Retail industry group, was arrested early Friday on charges of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. He was also sued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and accused of improperly using insider information about impending corporate deals.

Cohen, 33, of New York, was arraigned on Friday before a U.S. magistrate judge in Manhattan and released after he posted $250,000 and ordered to refrain from the “conduct alleged,” according to court records. A pre-trial hearing is set for Oct. 22.

Goldman Sachs spokeswoman Nicole Sharp said the firm is “cooperating with the authorities on the situation regarding Mr. Cohen. Protecting client confidential information is our highest internal priority and we condemn this alleged behavior.”

A lawyer for Cohen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The SEC complaint also names a Greek citizen, George Nikas, 54, who has homes in New York and Athens and owns a restaurant chain “GRK Fresh” that includes locations in Manhattan. A lawyer for Nikas could not immediately be identified Saturday.

The complaint says the pair participated in a scheme that netted Nikas at least $2.6 million in illicit profits by trading shares in two companies. Cohen passed on non-public corporate deal information to an unnamed trader who in turn gave it to Nikas who used it to illegally trade securities, the SEC said.

Cohen got cash in exchange for information he gave the trader.

The trader and Nikas “realized millions of dollars in illicit gains from trading the securities of at least two different public companies -- Syngenta AG and Buffalo Wild Wings Inc -- in advance of news that these companies had been targeted for acquisition,” the SEC said.

The SEC says Nikas profited from buying Syngenta securities in 2015 after first being passed information about Monsanto Co’s proposal to acquire it and later about ChemChina’s interest.

In October 2017, Cohen passed along that Arby’s Restaurant Group was interested in acquiring Buffalo Wild Wings, the SEC said, prompting additional trades.

In June, former Goldman Sachs vice president Woojae Jung was sentenced to three months in prison for engaging in insider trading based on non-public information about several companies that were bank clients.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Alistair Bell