After Bench Trial of First-Ever Credit Default Swap Insider Trading Action, U.S. District Court Rules that Swaps Referencing Bonds Are “Securities-Based Swap Agreements” Under Antifraud Provisions of Securities Exchange Act, but Holds that SEC Failed to Prove Insider Trading

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has succeeded in bringing credit default swaps under its jurisdiction over insider trading, but has lost its securities fraud suit against Jon-Paul Rorech (Rorech), a Deutsche Bank bond and credit default swap salesman, and Renato Negrin (Negrin), a portfolio manager employed during the relevant period by hedge fund manager Millennium Partners, L.P.  The SEC had alleged that Rorech and Negrin engaged in insider trading of the credit default swaps of VNU N.V. (VNU), a Dutch media conglomerate.  Rorech allegedly revealed to Negrin non-public information about a proposed bond offering by VNU that would result in an immediate increase in the value of certain credit default swaps that referenced VNU bonds.  As a result of that disclosure, Negrin allegedly purchased VNU credit default swaps shortly before the bond offering was announced and made a substantial profit when the value of those swaps increased following the announcement of the proposed offering.  The District Court determined that, while the SEC did have the power to prosecute its insider trading claims arising out of trading in the VNU credit default swaps, the SEC failed to prove that Rorech revealed material non-public information to Negrin.  We offer a comprehensive summary of the factual findings and legal reasoning in the court’s 122-page opinion.

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