Hedge fund founder calls insider trading rules "vague"

Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York speaks at a news conference July 25, 2013 about a federal indictment against SAC Capital, the hedge fund run by billionaire Steven A. Cohen. SAC Capital Advisors was charged in federal court in Manhattan in an indictment with wire fraud and four counts of securities fraud, as prosecutors allege the crimes were carried out from 1999 through at least 2010. 

In exclusive footage published by the public television documentary program Frontline, billionaire hedge fund manager Steven Cohen -- founder of SAC Capital -- describes federal securities laws as "vague" and asks for repeated explanation on the specifics of insider trading. 

It's especially relevant now, considering his firm pled guilty to insider trading and agreed to pay $1.2 billion in fines for the violation on Monday, making them the first major Wall Street firm in a generation to own up to criminal conduct

The footage comes from a filmed deposition obtained by Frontline. In it, Cohen is read a portion of his own firm's rules against insider trading.

Although SAC Capital's own manual says the rules must be "strictly adhered to," Cohen contradictorily sees them as "guidelines." 

The rules, Cohen says, "are very vague" and when he's asked if he's familiar with the specific insider trading rule (Rule 10b5-1), Cohen's answer isn't immediate:

Which leads the attorney to ask whether he's actually read the rules, to which Cohen replies "I might've read them. I just don't remember."

Insider information is knowledge of an event that’s going to affect a company’s stock price, things like bankruptcies; a merger with another company; and a drug getting approved or not -- so not understanding the rule in detail as a hedge fund manager of a giant firm is cause for serious concern. Although Cohen himself was not personally charged by federal prosecutors, he is facing a separte SEC investigation. For those of you still a bit confused, check out our Whiteboard explainer on insider trading

You can watch more clips from the contentious deposition here


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