OSLO (Reuters) - Hexagon’s chief executive, Ola Rollen, was cleared of insider trading charges by an Oslo court on Wednesday in a unanimous verdict.
Norwegian prosecutors had asked for an 18-month prison term for Rollen’s 2015 purchase of shares in Norway’s Next Biometrics, a company not connected to Hexagon.
One of Sweden’s best known business leaders, Rollen had maintained his innocence throughout the trial and continued to run the company he has led since 2000.
“I remain committed to serving as CEO for Hexagon for as long as the Board and shareholders will allow,” he said in a statement following the verdict.
Rollen’s lawyer argued during the trial that his client did not possess privileged information at the time of the share purchase and that the transactions he made were motivated by his own independent analysis of Next Biometrics.
“I am relieved by the court’s verdict, confirming what I and my lawyers have stated from the beginning; that I did nothing wrong,” Rollen said.
The case dates back to Rollen’s purchase of Next shares on October 6 and 7 2015 on behalf of Greenbridge, an investment firm he co-founded. Prosecutors said this was illegal because Greenbridge was involved in talks to take a larger stake in Next at a higher price.
The maximum sentence the prosecution could have asked for was six years in prison.
Rollen took to Twitter after the verdict, writing “From Oslo with love” and posting a photo of himself pointing to a text that read “if all else fails, try common sense!”
As Hexagon CEO, Rollen has helped transform a sprawling conglomerate with a market value of a few billion crowns in 2000 into an $18 billion technology market leader following a stream of acquisitions and high growth.
Hexagon’s shares fell 10 percent following news of the accusations in October 2016 but the stock is up 25 percent over the last 12 months after reports last June that Hexagon had held talks on a possible sale to a U.S. or European rival.
Norway’s white-collar crimes unit now has two weeks to decide whether to appeal the verdict to a higher court, prosecutor Marianne Bender told Reuters.
“We’ll carefully consider the verdict and whether to file an appeal,” Bender said.
Trading in the shares of Hexagon and Next Biometrics had ended for the day before the verdict was released.
Additional reporting by Ole Petter Skonnord in Oslo and and Johannes Hellstrom in Stockholm; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle