A former San Francisco investment banker and his college friend both pleaded guilty today for their roles in an insider trading scheme involving two impending corporate mergers, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California Melinda Haag.
Jauyo Lee, aka “Jason Lee,” 29, of New York, and Victor Chen, 29, of Sunnyvale, Calif., both pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in the Northern District of California to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and one count of securities fraud. Lee and Chen were charged in a criminal information on March 21, 2013.
“Insider trading undermines ordinary investors’ faith in our financial markets, and the Justice Department has zero tolerance for it,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman. “Today's guilty pleas show that you cannot trade on inside information, pocket the profit and expect to escape responsibility. Having now admitted their conduct, Mr. Lee and Mr. Chen must face the consequences.”
“Securities professionals cannot exploit their positions of trust to enrich themselves and their friends,” said U.S. Attorney Haag. “Those tempted to corrupt our markets in this manner should know: the government will get to the bottom of suspicious trading and prosecute securities fraud vigorously.”
According to the plea agreements, Lee, who worked as an investment banker in the San Francisco office of Leerink Swann LLC, disclosed inside information to Chen, a friend from college, about two impending mergers involving Leerink clients. Between Aug. 26, 2009, and Sept. 5, 2009, Lee disclosed inside information to Chen about the merger of Leerink’s client, Syneron Medical Ltd., and Candela Corporation, a medical device company publicly traded on the NASDAQ stock market. Chen used the inside information to buy shares of Candela. After the merger was announced, Candela’s stock price increased more than 40 percent and Chen sold his shares for a gain of approximately $62,589.
Between June 1 and 13, 2010, Lee also provided Chen with inside information about the impending merger of Somanetics Corporation and a subsidiary of Covidien plc. Leerink was the lead financial advisor to Somanetics, which also was publicly traded on the NASDAQ. Chen used the inside information to buy shares and options of Somanetics. Following the merger announcement, the price of Somanetics stock increased more than 30 percent and Chen ultimately realized a profit of approximately $547,510.
Lee and Chen are scheduled for sentencing on July 23, 2013, before Judge Seeborg. The maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit securities fraud is five years in prison, and the maximum penalty for securities fraud is 20 years in prison.
This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Brian R. Young of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert S. Leach of the Northern District of California. The prosecution is the result of a one-year investigation by the FBI with substantial assistance from the Chicago Regional Office of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which initiated a civil enforcement action against Lee and Chen and referred the matter to the Department of Justice.
This prosecution is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.