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SAC Trader Accused of Insider Trading

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STAMFORD, Conn. (–Michael Zimmerman, a trader at US$4 billion hedge fund firm SAC Capital Advisors, may be facing an inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commission as to whether he traded on research passed on to him by his wife, prominent Lehman Brothers analyst Holly Becker.

The head of legal issues for SAC declined to confirm or refute any reports, citing policy. An assistant for Steve Cohen, the founder of SAC, said that Mr. Cohen has no comments. An industry person familiar with the firm said that if Mr. Zimmerman was trading on inside information, Mr. Cohen and other SAC senior executives were probably unaware of it.

News of the potential regulatory action first appeared in the Wednesday New York Times. According to this article, Mr. Zimmerman is under investigation for possibly learning about Lehman research reports before these were released to bank customers and trading on this information in 2000. Regulators are examining some SAC trades from that year, the Times article said.

This potentially could be a new blow to analysts’ reputations–Ms. Becker has been regarded as an honest analyst and has not faced allegations of misleading investors that ended the Wall Street careers of former heavy hitters Jack Grubman and Henry Blodget.

She did not always boost Internet stocks and became known in 2000 for downgrading Yahoo. She later changed her mind about the net portal. Last summer, in one of her last published opinions, she indicated that she remains cautious on most Internet-based companies, including Amazon and eBay.

Mr. Cohen is a renowned stock picker and SAC specializes in long/short equity. The manager recently started to develop quantitative strategies and hired Neil Chriss, a mathematician and president of an electronic brokerage company, to spearhead the effort.

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