SEC Continues to Focus on Insider Trading and Fund Valuation

The 2013 landmark decision in U.S. v. Newman cast doubt on the state’s ability to prosecute insider trading by remote tippees. See “Current and Former SEC, DOJ and NY State Attorney General Practitioners Discuss Regulatory and Enforcement Priorities” (Jan. 14, 2016). Nevertheless, regulators continue to move aggressively against perceived insider trading. The SEC recently brought a civil enforcement action against portfolio manager Sanjay Valvani, a partner and portfolio manager for hedge fund manager Visium Asset Management (Visium), and Gordon Johnston, a former official of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), alleging that they had engaged in insider trading of shares of pharmaceutical companies whose stock prices would be affected by the FDA’s approval or disapproval of certain generic drugs. In parallel actions, the SEC has also accused former Visium portfolio manager Christopher Plaford of participating in that and another such scheme and has accused both Plaford and former Visium portfolio manager Stefan Lumiere of manipulating the valuation of securities held by a Visium fund. This article summarizes the facts underlying the complaints, particularly the insider trading charges. The cases are noteworthy because insider trading claims based on receipt of confidential government information are relatively rare. Even so, political intelligence firms remain in the SEC’s crosshairs. See “Self-Evaluation Policies Are Insufficient for Political Intelligence Firms to Avoid MNPI Violations” (Dec. 17, 2015); and “GAO Report Dissects the Mechanics of the Political Intelligence Market and Highlights Insider Trading Risks for Hedge Fund Managers” (Apr. 25, 2013). 

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