The CFO of a technology firm and his investment banker son have been charged with making more than $1 million in illicit profits from a serial insider-trading scheme that allegedly used coded e-mails disguised as discussions about golf.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said in a civil complaint filed Thursday that Sean R. Stewart, currently a managing director at a prominent investment bank, routinely provided his father, Robert K. Stewart, with nonpublic information about future mergers and acquisitions involving clients.
The elder Stewart — described in the complaint as “the CFO of a publicly-traded company that markets and sells products and mobile applications in the mobile-connection space” — allegedly cashed in on the tips by placing “highly profitable” trades in advance of at least a half-dozen M&A announcements.
Both Sean Stewart, 34, and Robert Stewart, 60, have been arrested on parallel criminal charges filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York. “The Stewarts – father and son alike – allegedly engaged in insider trading together to the tune of more than $1 million,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a news release.
In one instance, Bharara added, “the son’s tip to his father became a gift to himself when his father kicked back some of the proceeds of the insider trading to pay for his son’s wedding.”
According to the SEC, Sean Stewart gave his father insider information about pending deals on at least six occasions between 2010 and 2014. Acting on those tips, Robert Stewart placed trades in his own account and in accounts owned by a friend who is a securities trader, the SEC said.
The Stewarts allegedly conducted their insider-trading activities “on the phone or in coded email messages, often using ‘golf’ references to discuss aspects of the scheme.”
The complaint cites a May 2012 e-mail in which Robert Stewart told his trader friend: “might have an opportunity to play golf – but would need to book the reservation as soon as the office opens Tuesday morning.” The SEC alleges Stewart was referring to a pending acquisition of Lincare Holdings by Linde AG and that the trader bought Lincare options that Tuesday.