Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the guilty plea today of ATUL BHIWAPURKAR in connection with an insider trading scheme to reap illicit profits from inside information about the results of clinical trials of Paxlovid, a medicine used to treat COVID-19. BHIWAPURKAR was arrested in June 2023 and pled guilty to securities fraud based on insider trading before U.S. Magistrate Judge James L. Cott.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Bhiwapurkar admitted in court that he received sensitive, non-public information about a confidential drug trial from his friend, an employee at Pfizer, so he could profit on that information. The prosecution of those who steal and misuse confidential information to profit at the expense of other market participants continues to be a top priority of our Office, and people who engage in insider trading will be caught and held accountable.”
According to the allegations in the Indictment and statements made during court proceedings:
In November 2021, BHIWAPURKAR participated in an insider trading scheme to reap illicit profits from options trading based on inside information about the results of clinical trials of Paxlovid, a medicine used to treat COVID-19. BHIWAPURKAR was provided material, non-public information about the Paxlovid trial by an employee of Pfizer who assisted in managing the data analysis in certain clinical drug trials.
On November 4, 2021, prior to the public announcement that a Pfizer trial of the drug Paxlovid, a medicine designed to treat mild to severe COVID‑19 infection, had produced positive results, BHIWAPURKAR received a tip from a Pfizer insider with confidential information about the positive results and the timing of the upcoming press release. On that same day, BHIWAPURKAR purchased short-dated, out-of-the-money Pfizer call options that expired days and weeks later. BHIWAPURKAR also tipped another friend (“Individual-1”), who similarly purchased short-dated, out-of-the-money Pfizer call options that expired approximately three weeks later.
The following day, on November 5, 2021, and before the market opened, Pfizer publicly released results of its Paxlovid study. That same day, following the publication of the positive results, Pfizer’s stock price increased substantially, opening — and eventually closing — more than 10% higher than the prior day’s closing price. In the following weeks, BHIWAPURKAR and Individual-1 sold their Pfizer call options at significant profits.
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BHIWAPURKAR, 45, of Milpitas, California, pled guilty to one count of securities fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The maximum potential sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge. BHIWAPURKAR will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Mr. Williams also thanked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which has filed a parallel civil action.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alex Rossmiller and Justin Rodriguez are in charge of the prosecution.