U.S. congressional panel, SEC reach deal in insider trading probe

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. House of Representatives panel and an ex-staff member have agreed to end a fight over subpoenas the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission issued during a probe into possible insider trading on leaked information about Medicare reimbursement rates.

A general exterior view of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) headquarters in Washington, June 24, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

In a letter filed on Monday in federal court in Manhattan, lawyers for the SEC, the House Ways and Means Committee and ex-staffer Brian Sutter said they had reached an agreement on a protocol for the agency to review documents it had sought.

The SEC said the congressional panel and Sutter had as a result agreed to dismiss an appeal of a November 2015 ruling by U.S. District Paul Gardephe that had required them to comply with subpoenas issued in the probe.

“The parties are hopeful that their agreement, although presently only a partial resolution of the referenced proceeding, may culminate in a full resolution of it,” the letter said.

Representatives for the committee, the SEC and Sutter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The decision to drop the appeal came after a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in June appeared during oral arguments to lean in favor of forcing Congress to comply at least somewhat with two SEC subpoenas.

The case was seen as a test of how far securities enforcers may go to police the murky world of “political intelligence,” in which firms seek to gather and sell information for traders.

According to court filings, the SEC has been looking into an email a lobbyist at the law firm Greenberg Traurig LLP sent to an analyst at broker-dealer Height Securities regarding a deal struck in Congress about Medicare reimbursement rates in 2013.

The SEC said the email was sent before the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the rates after U.S. markets closed and about 30 minutes before Height issued a report suggesting the change could help companies such as Humana Inc HUM.N.

The SEC’s probe came to focus in part on Sutter, who the regulator said on the day of the announcement had spoken with the Greenberg Traurig lobbyist and had discussed the rate announcement on that call.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan had also launched an investigation related to the alleged leak, according to congressional records. The status of that probe was unclear on Monday.

The case is SEC v. Committee on Ways and Means of the U.S. House of Representatives et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 14-mc-00193.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman