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Phil Mickelson's Insider Trading Scandal: No Penalty Stroke?

May 25 2016

Phil Mickelson

The Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) last month issued a statement alleging that famous golfer Phil Mickelson profited to the tune of at least $931,000 due to insider trading. While the two other men implicated in the case, a professional gambler and a former board member of Dean Foods, are facing potential jail time (the typical punishment in such situations), Mickelson hasn't been charged with any crime at all.

The U.S. federal government has been investigating this case for decades, but instead of being contrite and owning up to the alleged crimes Mickelson's lawyer issued a statement stating the pro golf player is an "innocent bystander" and he is not deserving of the focus and "false finger pointing."

Yes, Mickelson agreed to pay back the $931,000, as well as about $100,000 in interest, to the government. But as per the SEC's own rules, he should have never been in possession of this money in the first place.

Instead of facing jail time, however, Mickelson merely had to cut a check for $931,000. He didn't even have to promise to not engage in similar behavior in the future. Even for someone worth so much money, handing $931,000 to the government without putting up a fight seems suspicious.

The way the story goes, Mickelson was told by a professional gambler to whom he owed money that he should invest in dean Foods. A quick look at Mickelson's portfolio's history shows that he doesn't invest in stocks often or heavily. Upon receiving gambler William Walter's tip, however, Mickelson invested almost immediately, to the tune of 200,000 shares valued at $2.4 million.

A week later, shares of Dean foods spiked due to a better-than-expected earnings report, and Mickelson sold his shares. Mickelson allegedly pocketed over $1 million in one week due to the trade, and used some of those profits to pay off Walters.

As of mid-2014, U.S. District Attorney in Manhattan and lead DOJ official for financial fraud cases, Preet Bharara, had an 80-0 conviction record. In the Mickelson case, however, there has been no conviction, no indictment, and no sort of serious injunction against Mickelson for the acts allegedly committed. Is this due to negligence, cloudy insider trading rules, or some combination of the two?

Phil Mickelson, Carl Icahn Investigated In Insider Trading Case

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