The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged a Connecticut-based business executive with insider trading ahead of the sale of Patriot Capital Funding Group based on nonpublic information he learned at the helm of a firm involved in the bidding process.
The SEC alleges that I. Joseph Massoud, who founded investment advisory firm Compass Group Management, gained access to nonpublic information contained in an online “dataroom” where bidding companies could learn more about Patriot Capital’s financial condition. For access to the data, Compass Group had to enter into a confidentiality agreement that prohibited its employees from buying Patriot Capital stock. Nonetheless, Massoud purchased shares soon after Compass Group gained access to the confidential information, and he bought even more stock after he learned that Compass Group’s bid was what he described as “waaaaay off” compared to bids from other companies. Patriot Capital’s share price more than doubled after a merger was publicly announced, and Massoud realized more than $676,000 in illegal profits.
Massoud, who lives in Westport, Conn., agreed to settle the SEC’s charges by paying more than $1.4m. He also will be barred from working in the securities industry or serving as an officer or director of a public company. The settlement is subject to court approval.
'With full knowledge of a confidentiality agreement that prohibited him from buying Patriot Capital stock, Massoud abused his access to nonpublic data for what turned out to be a short-term personal gain', said John T. Dugan, Associate Director of the SEC’s Boston Regional Office. 'As a result of the SEC’s action, Massoud must pay back double what he made in the scheme and he can never work in the securities industry again'.
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Connecticut, Patriot Capital initiated a nonpublic bidding process in 2009 to entertain proposals for strategic investments and the possible sale of the company. In May 2009, Massoud directed Compass Group to execute a confidentiality agreement with Patriot Capital so it could participate in that process. After Compass Group was provided access to the online dataroom as part of the bidding process, a Compass Group analyst accessed the dataroom and provided various reports containing material, nonpublic information to Massoud.
The SEC alleges that Massoud also learned nonpublic information about the value of bids received by Patriot Capital from other parties involved in the bidding process. On July 7, 2009, Massoud e-mailed others working on the Patriot Capital transaction at Compass Group and indicated that he had just talked with Patriot Capital’s CEO. He wrote that Compass Group was “waaaaay off” on its bid to acquire Patriot Capital, which according to the CEO had received several acquisition bids that were much higher than Compass Group’s offer. Massoud also learned from the CEO that Compass Group would have to increase its bid to match those higher proposals if it wanted to be considered.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Massoud bought 322,216 shares of Patriot Capital stock in transactions spread across 15 different trading days from May to July. Massoud purchased more than half of those shares after July 7 when Patriot Capital’s CEO confidentially told him about other higher bids to acquire Patriot Capital. On Aug. 3, 2009, Patriot Capital publicly announced a merger with Prospect Capital Corporation. On August 25, after Patriot Capital had been acquired and its stock price had increased significantly, Massoud sold all of his Patriot Capital stock.
The SEC alleges that Massoud violated Section 10(b) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 and that his profits constitute ill-gotten gains. Massoud agreed to pay disgorgement of $676,013, prejudgment interest of $80,785, and a penalty of $676,013. He agreed to be enjoined from violating Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 in the future, and he will be barred from serving as a public company officer or director and from being associated with any broker, dealer, investment adviser, municipal securities dealer, municipal adviser, transfer agent, or national recognized statistical rating organization. He also will be barred from participating in any penny stock offering.