The Securities and Exchange Commission won a jury trial in U.S. District Court, Atlanta, against a New Jersey securities broker who had been charged with insider trading in advance of three M&As.
Jurors found Raymond Pirrello Jr. guilty on all five SEC claims, the Verdict Form filed Wednesday showed.
Pirrello last served as a FINRA-registered broker for Red Bank, New Jersey-based Garden State Securities in 2016, according to the BrokerCheck website, which says he was suspended from acting as a broker after working there since 2008. He was first registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in 1996, the site shows.
Asked Thursday if Garden State Securities was aware of the activities that Pirrello was accused of during his time with the firm, Robert Rabinowitz, managing partner at Becker & Poliakoff, the law firm representing Garden State, told ThinkAdvisor: “Absolutely positively not. He never would have been permitted to continue to work there had the firm had any inkling what he was doing.” Once Garden State became aware of his “malfeasance,” the firm terminated him, he said, adding that Garden State cooperated with the SEC on its investigation.
Pirrello’s attorneys didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the jury’s verdict.
Scheduled next is a post-trial brief by the SEC that’s due on or before Aug. 23, followed by the defendant’s response on or before Aug. 30. Unless the parties waive the need for a post-trial hearing, a hearing will be held Sept. 6, a court document showed.
The evidence presented during the trial showed that Pirrello received confidential nonpublic information about the impending acquisitions of Radiant Systems, Midas Inc. and BrightPoint from Thomas Avent Jr., who performed tax work on each transaction as a partner at an international accounting firm, the SEC said in its announcement about the verdict.
Pirrello then “tipped his former colleague and longtime friend,” Lawrence Penna Jr., who traded in the securities of each of the three companies, the SEC charged. According to evidence presented during the trial, Penna and his family made at least $107,922 in illicit trading profits and shared at least $21,500 of those profits with Pirrello, the SEC said. The SEC filed its initial complaint against all three defendants in Atlanta July 7, 2016.
The jury Wednesday found Pirrello liable on all counts, finding that he violated Sections 10(b) and 14(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rules 10b-5 and 14e-3 in connection with the Radiant and Midas tender offers, as well as the BrightPoint acquisition.
Avent and Penna each previously settled insider trading charges brought against them by the SEC. On Aug. 2, the SEC announced that it obtained a final judgment against Avent for his insider trading.
“This case involved a sophisticated scheme by industry professionals to use inside information on multiple occasions to obtain substantial illegal profits,” Joel Levin, director of the SEC’s Chicago Regional Office, said in a statement Wednesday. He added: “Insider trading undermines investor confidence in the integrity of the markets and those who engage in it must be held accountable.”