Risk & Compliance

KPMG Tax Partner Accused of Insider Trading

The SEC says Thomas Avent's broker paid him $50,000 for tips about pending deals involving KPMG clients.
Matthew HellerJuly 8, 2016

A tax partner at KPMG has been accused of tipping off his broker to three pending mergers involving clients of the accounting firm as part of an insider trading scheme from which a friend of the broker made more than $110,000 in profits.

In a civil complaint filed Thursday, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said Thomas Avent, 63, specialized in M&A due diligence at KPMG, giving him access to “some of the most valuable, sensitive, nonpublic information that exists within the sphere of the stock markets.”

The complaint alleges that in 2011 and 2012 he provided advance information about three deals to broker Raymond Pirrello, who subsequently passed the tips on to Lawrence Penna, a former colleague and longtime friend of Pirrello.

“As a result, Penna got an illegal jump on other investors, and he and his family made over $111,000 in illicit insider-trading profits,” the SEC said.

Avent, Pirrello, 40, and Penna, 72, are all accused of insider trading. According to the SEC, Pirrello rewarded Avent for the tips by paying him $50,000 in cash, providing him with investment advice and servicing his brokerage account, and arranging for another of his clients to buy an illiquid $250,000 investment that Avent wanted to sell.

KPMG said it was “deeply troubled” by the allegations and had placed Avent on administrative leave.

Avent leads a KMPG tax practice group that performs due diligence related to upcoming mergers and acquisitions. “Through his work, Avent learns secret, proprietary, carefully guarded information about upcoming corporate acquisitions, including tender offers for publicly-traded companies,” the SEC said.

The alleged tips to Pirrello involved NCR’s 2011 purchase of Radiant Systems, TBC’s 2011 acquisition of Midas Incorporated, and Ingram Micro’s 2012 takeover of BrightPoint. Both NCR and TBC were clients of KPMG and the firm provided advice to Tech Data, which had also considered acquiring BrightPoint.

The SEC said Pirrello also used the information he received from Avent to recommend the target companies to other associates, who then bought shares in those companies in advance of the deal announcements.