Risk & Compliance

S&P Index Manager Charged With Insider Trading

James Yang allegedly traded in options after he learned in advance that their issuers would be added to or removed from one of S&P Dow Jones' three...
Matthew HellerSeptember 22, 2020

A senior index manager at S&P Dow Jones Indices and his friend have been charged with trading on inside information he misappropriated from his employer, generating $900,000 in illicit profits.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said Yinghang “James” Yang of Flushing, N.Y., traded in the options of 14 companies between June and October 2019 after he learned in advance that they would be added to or removed from one of S&P Dow Jones’ three indices.

The trades were allegedly executed through the brokerage account of co-conspirator Yuanbiao Chen of Corona, N.Y., a manager of a sushi restaurant.

Yang was arrested on Monday in a related criminal case.

“Financial professionals and other employees entrusted with confidential, market-moving information are prohibited from using that information for personal gain,” Richard R. Best, director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office, said in a news release. “As alleged in our complaint, Yang abused that trust when he used the information to enrich himself and Chen.”

According to his LinkedIn profile, Yang has a master’s degree from Columbia University and joined S&P Dow Jones in September 2018 after previously working for the derivatives businesses of JPMorgan Chase and BNY Mellon.

As an index manager at S&P Dow Jones, he was “privy to index committee discussions and related matters, including the identities of companies that might be added to or removed from one of [the company’s] U.S.-based indices,” the SEC said.

Yang and Chen allegedly made illegal trades in the call or put options of companies including Etsy, GrubHub, and T-Mobile, with Yang on some occasions accessing Chen’s brokerage account directly through the internet and on others tipping off Chen.

The defendants generated returns on their option purchases as high as 624%, the SEC said, with their most lucrative trade being an $18,014 investment in call options of CDW Corp. on Sept. 17, 2019. After S&P Dow Jones announced CDW would be added to one of its indexes, they allegedly liquidated the options the following day for $112,487 in profits.