SEC Charges Board Member With Insider Trading During a Board Meeting

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently charged a Tennessee-based lawyer who served on the executive committee of the board of directors at Nashville-based Pinnacle Financial Partners (NASDAQ: PNFP) with insider trading based on nonpublic information he learned about an impending merger.

In the complaint, the SEC alleged that James C. Cope obtained more than $56,000 in ill-gotten gains by purchasing securities in Pinnacle’s acquisition target, Avenue Financial Holdings, prior to the banks’ joint public announcement later that month.

According to agency, Cope learned confidential details about the planned merger during a board executive committee meeting on Jan. 5, 2016, and proceeded to place his first order to purchase Avenue Financial stock while that executive committee meeting was still in progress.

He allegedly placed four more orders within an hour after the meeting ended.

Walter Jospin, director of the SEC’s Atlanta Regional Office, commented:

We allege that Cope completely disregarded his responsibilities as an attorney and public company director and illegally seized the moment to purchase stock in an acquisition target after learning confidential, nonpublic information at a board executive committee meeting.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee also filed a parallel criminal case against Cope.