Insider trading spreading in M&A?
A Blackstone investment banker is alleged to have shared information on the buyout of grocery chain Albertsons with a friend, who went on to make $3.6 million from the friendly chats. (The lawsuit says the banker passed on the tips in at least 20 telephone calls and at least 18 text messages)
33-year-old Ramesh Chakrapani was a vice president working on the deal, advising Albertsons as part of a Blackstone team. Wall Street firms are teeming with vice presidents — relatively junior bankers who work their way up to the first coveted title of managing director. Chakrapani himself was subsequently promoted to managing director and sent to the firm’s London offices.
Media reports have cited senior bankers from the Albertson deal as barely remembering Chakrapani. Some told the Wall Street Journal Chakrapani played a junior role and did not have much involvement with the negotiations.
Insider trading, historically associated with traders, now seems to be spreading to M&A professionals.
In 2007, a Credit Suisse banker was convicted for leaking confidential information on several deals, including the $32 billion buyout of power giant TXU. The banker was charged with one count of conspiracy and 28 counts of insider trading for relaying information to a former boss. Authorities tagged the profits at nearly $7.5 million.
Last month, U.S. authorities said a former Lehman Brothers salesman was charged with sharing information about 13 impending mergers gleaned from his wife, a partner at public relations firm Brunswick Group. Two day traders, a lawyer and a brokerage salesman were also charged with illegal trades that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said netted $4.8 million in illegal profits.
It’s very unlikely insider trading will become a common phenomenon in the dealmaking space. Aside from the basic ethics involved, bankers are usually keen on keeping the information confidential for fear of jeopardizing the deal. But it is certainly becoming more visible.
(Photo: REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco)