What does a company do when the person in charge of executing the company’s insider trading compliance gets caught for insider trading? Ask Apple.
On Wednesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged the tech giant’s former global head of corporate law, Gene Daniel Levoff, with trading Apple securities ahead of three quarterly earnings announcements in 2015 and 2016.
As part of the senior executive committee at Apple that reviewed the company’s draft earnings materials prior to their public release, Levoff had access to confidential information and was prohibited from trading on it. But he did.
In July 2015, for example, Levoff received material nonpublic financial data that showed Apple would miss analysts’ third-quarter estimates for iPhone sales. Between July 17 and the public release of Apple’s quarterly earnings on July 21, the SEC complaint says, Levoff sold about $10 million of Apple stock — virtually all of his Apple holdings — from personal brokerage accounts.
Apple’s share price dropped more than 4% when it publicly disclosed that quarterly financial data. By trading on the material nonpublic information, Levoff avoided about $345,000 in losses.
In the complaint, the SEC also revealed that Levoff had “a previous history of insider trading,” having traded on Apple’s material nonpublic information as far back as 2011. That trading activity netted Levoff $245,000 in profits, the SEC said.
“Levoff’s alleged exploitation of his access to Apple’s financial information was particularly egregious given his responsibility for implementing the company’s insider trading compliance policy,” said Antonia Chion, associate director of the SEC’s division of enforcement. “The SEC is committed to pursuing insiders who breach their duties to investors.”
As a senior director, Levoff reported to Apple’s general counsel and reviewed and approved the company’s insider trading policy. He regularly notified employees of the blackout periods around earnings announcements. He was also responsible for managing the company’s corporate subsidiary structure and served as a director for several Apple subsidiaries.
The SEC’s complaint, filed in federal district court in Newark, New Jersey, charges Levoff with fraud and is seeking the return of his trading profits plus interest and penalties. It is also seeking to bar Levoff from serving as an officer or director.
In a parallel action, the U.S. attorney’s office for the district of New Jersey announced criminal charges against Levoff.
Levoff, of San Carlos, Calif., was let go by Apple in September 2018.