WASHINGTON – A former managing director of the NASDAQ Stock Market pleaded guilty today for his participation in an insider trading scheme in which he purchased and sold stock in NASDAQ-listed companies based on material, non-public information he obtained in his capacity as a NASDAQ executive, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride of the Eastern District of Virginia and Postal Inspector in Charge of Criminal Investigations Gerald O’Farrell of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).
Donald Johnson, 56, a resident of Ashburn, Va., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga in the Eastern District of Virginia to one count of securities fraud. In pleading guilty, he admitted that he purchased and sold stock in NASDAQ-listed companies based on material, non-public information, or inside information, on several different occasions from 2006 to 2009.
“Mr. Johnson was a fox in a hen-house,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “NASDAQ-listed companies entrusted him with their sensitive, non-public information so that he could provide them with analyses about their stock. He then used that very information to cheat the system and make an illegal profit. Insider trading by a gatekeeper on a securities exchange is a shocking abuse of trust, and must be punished. The integrity of our securities markets is vital to the U.S. economy, and the Justice Department is determined to take on insider trading at every level.”
“Don Johnson used sensitive, confidential information as an executive at NASDAQ to pad his retirement by more than $600,000,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “He thought he could get away with it by using his wife’s account and inside information to make relatively small trades just a few times a year. But he learned what every other trader on Wall Street must now realize: We’re watching.”
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service continues to identify and aggressively investigate those who commit securities fraud,” said Postal Inspector in Charge of Criminal Investigations O’Farrell. “The agency has placed a team of highly trained Postal Inspectors at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., working in partnership with Department of Justice attorneys, to assure that criminals who defraud innocent citizens are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
According to court documents, from 2006 to September 2009, Johnson was a managing director on NASDAQ’s market intelligence desk in New York. The market intelligence desk provides trading analysis and market information to the companies that list on NASDAQ. According to court documents, Johnson monitored the stock of companies traded on NASDAQ and offered NASDAQ-listed companies information and analyses concerning trading in their own stock. To enable him to perform these services, NASDAQ-listed companies routinely entrusted Johnson with material, non-public information about their stock, including advance notice of announcements concerning earnings, regulatory approvals and personnel changes. Johnson admitted that he repeatedly used this information to purchase or sell short stock in various NASDAQ-listed companies shortly before the information was made public. He would then generate substantial gains by reversing those positions soon after the announcement. According to court documents, to conceal his illegal trading, Johnson executed these trades in a brokerage account in his wife’s name. Johnson failed to disclose this account to NASDAQ in violation of NASDAQ rules.
Johnson admitted that he made illegal purchases and sales of stock in NASDAQ-listed companies on at least eight different occasions, generating gains totaling more than $640,000. The companies whose securities he traded were Central Garden and Pet Co.; Digene Corporation; Idexx Laboratories Inc.; Pharmaceutical Product Development Inc.; and United Therapeutics Corporation. According to court documents, in November 2007, Johnson used inside information related to successful trial results for United Therapeutics’ drug Viveta (now called Tyvaso) to purchase shares of United Therapeutics before the trial results were announced. Soon after the announcement, Johnson sold the shares and gained more than $175,000 in profits. According to court documents, in July 2009, Johnson used inside information about the approval of its drug Tyvaso to purchase shares of United Therapeutics before the approval was announced. He sold the shares after the announcement and gained more than $110,000 in profits.
Johnson is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 12, 2011. The maximum penalty for securities fraud is 20 years in prison and a fine of $5 million.
In a related action, the Securities and Exchange Commission today filed a civil enforcement action against Johnson in the Southern District of New York.
This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Justin Goodyear of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Raymond E. Patricco Jr., of the Eastern District of Virginia. The Department would like to recognize the substantial assistance of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The case was investigated by USPIS. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority also provided assistance. Brigham Cannon, formerly a Trial Attorney of the Criminal Division, also assisted with the investigation.
This prosecution is part of efforts underway by President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. For more information about the task force visit: www.stopfraud.gov .