NEW YORK – Employees of some of Wall Street's top banks were among more than a dozen people charged on Thursday in what authorities called one of the most pervasive insider trading rings since the 1980s, accused of using leaked information and even blackmail to make millions of dollars.
U.S. prosecutors filed criminal charges against 13 people and the Securities and Exchange Commission filed civil charges against 11 in an investigation that has spanned more than a year and is ongoing. One person named in the SEC's complaint does not face criminal charges.
Authorities said some of those accused in the cases used clandestine meetings, disposable cell phones, secret codes and cash kickbacks to elude detection and avoid suspicion.
It was "one of the most pervasive Wall Street insider trading rings since the days of Ivan Boesky and Dennis Levine," Linda Thomsen, director of enforcement with the SEC, said at a joint news conference with the U.S. Attorney and the FBI.
The SEC said defendants in insider trading schemes made as much as $15 million. The U.S. Attorney said those charged in the criminal case netted $8 million.
Michael Garcia, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said the investigation uncovered two insider trading schemes, one case of blackmail and one case of kickbacks.
Garcia said one trading scheme involved UBS Securities executive Mitchel Guttenberg selling information about upcoming UBS analysts' upgrades and downgrades for "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to David Tavdy, a trader who the SEC said worked for broker dealer Assent LLC and Jasper Capital, and Erik Franklin, who the SEC said worked for Lyford Cay Capital and Chelsey Capital.
Prosecutors said Tavdy and Franklin made more than $4 million each with that information.
Other people who traded on the UBS tips included Mark Lenowitz, a portfolio manager who also worked with Franklin, and David Glass, a trader at Jasper Capital, which Tavdy used to execute trades based on the UBS tips, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Samuel Childs and Laurence McKeever, who at the time were brokers at Assent LLC, learned about the scheme involving the UBS executive and blackmailed some of the people involved.
"UBS is assisting the authorities to the fullest extent possible in their investigation into the alleged actions of a single UBS employee," the bank said in a statement.
Two former registered representatives at Bear Stearns & Co. (BSC), Robert Babcock and Ken Okada, obtained insider information by observing Franklin's trading in Bear Stearns accounts, prosecutors said.
Authorities said that in the second insider trading scheme, former Morgan Stanley and Co., Inc. (MS) lawyer Randi Collotta, who worked in the company's compliance division, gave information about mergers and acquisitions to her husband, Christopher Collotta, an attorney in private practice, and Marc Jurman, who the SEC said worked at broker dealers Marlins Capital and Finance 500 Inc.
Morgan Stanley spokesman Mark Lake said, "We have cooperated and are continuing to cooperate fully with the authorities regarding a former employee who allegedly stole information from Morgan Stanley."
Jurman traded on the information and passed it along to Babcock, who traded on it, then passed it to Franklin and Okada, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors also said Paul Risoli, a former Bank of America Securities (BAC) representative, allocated shares of initial public offerings and secondary offerings to New Jersey hedge fund Q Capital for cash kickbacks.
Q Capital Investment Partners LP was charged civilly with trading on nonpublic information from UBS and Morgan Stanley. Chelsey Capital and Jasper Capital were charged civilly with trading on nonpublic information linked to UBS.
For a list of charges see . For examples of the alleged insider trading see .
All 13 people facing criminal charges were arrested and four pleaded guilty, prosecutors said.
Charles Ross, a lawyer for Childs, said, "He will vigorously contest these charges in the courtroom."
Lawyers for Lenowitz and the Collottas declined to comment. Representatives for the other defendants could not immediately be reached for comment.
"In a time of volatile markets, these defendants had a sure thing, and they capitalized on it," Garcia said. "Clearly, greed is at work."