The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently announced that a former consultant to two China-based private equity firms has agreed to pay over $756,000 in order to settle insider trading charges.
The agency alleged that Guolin Ma traded on confidential information he obtained while advising the two firms as they pursued a buyout of Silicon Valley-based OmniVision Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: OVTI), a maker of optical semiconductor devices. Ma, an optical physicist who primarily resides in China, attended key meetings and performed technical due diligence related to the potential acquisition of OmniVision, and he received timeline and strategy documents from the firms.
According to the report filed in federal court, one of the firms advised by Ma joined a group of Chinese investment firms in making a bid to buy OmniVision. Ma stockpiled 39,373 shares of OmniVision stock through a series of purchases in April and May 2014 while possessing nonpublic information.
During this time, OmniVision’s stock price rose 15% when the proposed acquisition was publicly announced in August 2014, allowing Ma to generate $367,387 in illegal profits.
Without admitting or denying the allegations in the SEC’s complaint, Ma agreed to pay disgorgement of $367,387 plus interest of $21,986 and a penalty of $367,387. Note that this settlement is subject to court approval.
Joseph G. Sansone, co-chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Market Abuse Unit, commented:
Guolin Ma breached a duty of trust and confidence to the private equity firms when he bought thousands of shares of OmniVision stock while aware of the impending transaction. It was a costly mistake because the settlement requires him to pay back double his illegal trading profits.