Nearly $30 Million Frozen for Chinese Insider Trading Scheme at Comcast

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently announced that it obtained an emergency court order freezing brokerage accounts that held over $29 million in illegal profits reaped from insider trading in advance of the April 2016 acquisition of DreamWorks Animation SKG by Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA).

The agency alleged that in the weeks leading up to the news of the acquisition, Shaohua (Michael) Yin amassed more than $56 million of DreamWorks stock in the U.S. brokerage accounts of five Chinese nationals, including his elderly parents. DreamWorks stock price rose 47.3% once the acquisition was announced.

According to the report, the five accounts reaped $29 million from the DreamWorks trades. Also the accounts allegedly profited from other suspicious trading in another U.S.-based company and three China-based companies ahead of market-moving news.

On February 10, Judge J. Paul Oetken of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted the SEC’s request for an asset freeze of the five brokerage accounts and issued an order to show cause why an injunction and other relief should not be issued. A hearing has been scheduled for February 17.

Michele Wein Layne, director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office, commented:

Despite the defendant’s alleged attempts to hide his control over these accounts, the SEC’s data analytic investigative tools enabled us to determine who was behind the suspicious trading. Our action today shows that the SEC will not hesitate to freeze the assets of foreign traders when they use our markets to conduct illegal activity.

For some background: Yin is a partner at Summitview Capital Management, a Hong Kong-based private equity firm. He allegedly did not trade in DreamWorks stock through his own account but instead traded through five accounts from addresses in Beijing and Palo Alto and on a computer that also accessed Yin’s email accounts.

The SEC’s complaint charges Michael Yin with securities fraud and names the holders of the five brokerage accounts as relief defendants. The SEC is seeking a permanent injunction, return of allegedly ill-gotten profits, civil money penalties and other relief.

Shares of Comcast were trading up 0.5% at $75.40 on Monday, with a consensus analyst price target of $82.39 and a 52-week trading range of $56.59 to $76.87.