The Commission has already charged 14 defendants in an illegal scheme allegedly using information stolen from UBS Securities LLC and Morgan Stanley & Co., Inc. SEC spokesman Scott Friestad told TIME, "The Commission intends to scrutinize other trading that is highly suspicious in nature," directly tied to the case involving Catellas Development, a California-based developer of residential, retail and office and other properties. Though declining to identify those under scrutiny in the continuing probe, he said additional charges could be forthcoming against others who may have known or benefited from the alleged criminal activity.
He added that "numerous" so far unnamed individuals are or would likely come under investigation, and that a decision on charging them would be clearer "in the next few months." Friestad noted that insider trading investigations often scrutinize, and later charge, "family members, friends, college roommates and other social acquaintances" of those identified in the initial round of formal accusations. The SEC often tries to pressure those under investigation to cooperate with the agency.
"The investigation began as routine probe of suspicious high-volume trading prior to the acquisition of Catellas Development," said Friestad. The probe led to Eric Franklin, a hedge fund manager for Q Capital Investment Partners, LP, a Delaware limited partnership with offices in Fort Lee, N.J. "We linked those trades to Mr. Franklin and obtained trading records for Q Capital, and Mr. Franklin's own records for his personal account, and noticed that what they had in common was Morgan Stanley as the investment banker. We also noticed that a lot of the trading preceded upgrades and downgrades issued by UBS [Union Bank of Switzerland] and then the whole scheme began to unravel."
The group of alleged conspirators who passed on or used inside information eventually numbered 14, the SEC said, including eight Wall Street professionals, two broker-dealers and three hedge funds, including Lyford Cay, a Bear Stearns limited partnership. The SEC complaint alleges that eight Wall Street professionals, including a UBS research executive and a Morgan Stanley attorney, two broker-dealers and a day-trading firm participated in the scheme. The defendants also include three hedge funds, which were the biggest beneficiaries of the alleged fraud.
Four of the named defendants, including Eric Franklin, have pleaded guilty to charges including conspiracy, securities fraud and bribery. Two individuals have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and securities fraud and have been released on bail. Morgan Stanley, UBS and Bear Stearns have condemned the alleged activity and indicated they are cooperating with the investigation and will continue to do so.
"Our action ... will make very clear the SEC is targeting hedge fund insider trading as a top priority," SEC Chairman Christopher Cox said in announcing the action.