Risk & Compliance

Physicist Fined for Tech Deal Insider Trading

The SEC says the Chinese citizen made $367,387 in illegal profits by trading on inside information about the takeover of OmniVision Technologies.
Matthew HellerJune 13, 2016

A Chinese citizen has agreed to pay more than $756,000 to settle charges that he traded on inside information he obtained while acting as a consultant to two Chinese private-equity firms pursuing a takeover of OmniVision Technologies.

One of Guolin Ma’s clients was part of a group of Chinese investment firms that acquired OmniVision, a Silicon Valley maker of optical semiconductor devices, for $1.9 billion in April 2015. Ma, an optical physicist, made $367,387 in illegal profits by trading in OmniVision shares based on his advance knowledge of the deal, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said in a civil complaint filed last week.

To settle the charges, Ma will pay disgorgement of $367,387 plus interest of $21,986 and a penalty of $367,387.

“Guolin Ma breached a duty of trust and confidence to the private equity firms when he bought thousands of shares of OmniVision stock while aware of the impending transaction,” Joseph G. Sansone, co-chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Market Abuse Unit, said in a news release.

The SEC did not identify Ma’s clients but OmniVision was acquired by a group including Hua Capital Management Co., CITIC Capital Holdings, and GoldStone Investment Co. The group initially offered $1.7 billion, or $29 a share, for OmniVision in August 2014, later raising its bid to $1.9 billion, or $29.75 a share.

According to the SEC, Ma worked in the U.S. for a number of tech companies. In April 2014, the Chinese private-equity firms hired him to advise them on a potential acquisition of a company in the optical semiconductor industry.

“In the course of this consulting relationship, defendant obtained the material non-public information that [one of the PE firms] and a Chinese state-owned science and technology investment fund were jointly pursuing the acquisition of OmniVision,” the SEC said.

Ma allegedly stockpiled 39,373 shares of OmniVision stock for for a total price of $746,474 through a series of purchases in April and May 2014. On the day the initial takeover offer was announced, the shares rose 15%.