Belgian Citizen Pleads Guilty to Insider Trading
John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Brian C. Turner, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced that NICHOLAS ZANEN, 46, of Belgium, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson to a conspiracy charge stemming from his role in an insider trading scheme.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Zanen was employed by Cheniere Energy, Inc. (“Cheniere”), a Houston-based energy company whose common stock traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol LNG. Zanen was a vice president of trading in the Cheniere’s United Kingdom Branch and was based in London. Cheniere maintained written policies prohibiting the direct or indirect disclosure of confidential information and requiring employees to prevent the disclosure of such confidential information. In his position, Zanen had access to material non-public information concerning Cheniere’s deals, financings, and other business information, and he was in possession of inside information prior to public announcements.
Between November 2011 and December 2012, Zanen disclosed Cheniere inside information to a friend, Francis J. Van Steenberge, and advised him whether to buy or sell Cheniere securities with the understanding that Van Steenberge would execute the security transactions on the basis of these instructions. Zanen and Van Steenberge generated approximately $1 million through this scheme.
Zanen also caused to be made materially false and fraudulent statements to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) that he was unaware of the circumstances under which Van Steenberge gained knowledge of Cheniere’s business activities.
On June 4, 2014, a federal grand jury in New Haven returned an indictment charging Zanen with one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and three counts of securities fraud. Zanen, who was living abroad in London, Singapore and Belgium, was apprehended on April 22, 2019, in Pisa, Italy. He was extradited to the U.S. on June 13, 2019.
Zanen pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. Judge Thompson scheduled sentencing for November 4, 2019, at which time Zanen faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five years. Zanen has been detained since his arrest.
On April 4, 2014, Van Steenberge pleaded guilty to the same offense. He awaits sentencing.
In the companion case Securities and Exchange Commission v. Nicolas Zanen and Francis J. Van Steenberge, a judgment was issued ordering Zanen to pay a civil penalty of $432,775.70 to the SEC. Zanen has paid the penalty.
This investigation is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael S. McGarry. U.S. Attorney Durham thanked the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs for its assistance in this matter, in particular former DOJ Rome Attache’ Cristina Posa.
U.S. Attorney Durham stressed that protecting the integrity of the capital markets and ensuring that individuals comply with our nation’s securities laws is a priority of the Justice Department. Individuals who believe that they have been victimized by this insider trading scheme should contact the FBI in New Haven at 203-777-6311.