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SEC Freezes Assets in Swiss-Based Account From Suspected Heinz Acquisition Insider Trading Scheme

Posted in SEC Enforcement Cases, SEC News

On February 15, 2013, the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") issued a press release announcing that it had obtained an emergency court order to freeze assets in a Swiss-based trading account that was used to gain more than $1.7 million from insider trading activities in connection with yesterday’s announced acquisition of H.J. Heinz Company.

In a complaint filed in Federal Court in Manhattan, the SEC alleges that, prior to any public disclosure of Berkshire Hathaway’s and 3G Capital’s agreement to acquire Heinz for approximately $28 billion, unknown traders purchased call options on the day prior to the announcement of the merger.  The announcement of the merger caused Heinz’s stock to increase nearly 20 percent on substantially increased trading volume from the prior day, allowing the traders to realize substantial gains from their trades.  The SEC further alleges that the traders were in possession of material nonpublic information about the Heinz acquisition when they purchased out-of-the-money Heinz call options prior to the announcement. Additionally, these trades were made through an account that had no history of trading Heinz securities during the last six months, and on in a period where there was minimal trading in activity in Heinz call options.