Just a day after the deal, the SEC obtained an emergency court order to freeze assets in a Zurich, Switzerland-based trading account that was used to reap more than $1.7 million from trading in advance of yesterday’s news about the acquisition of H.J. Heinz Company.
According to the SEC Complaint:
The SEC alleges that the unknown traders were in possession of material nonpublic information about the impending acquisition when they purchased out-of-the-money Heinz call options the day before the announcement. The timing and size of the trades were highly suspicious because the account through which the traders purchased the options had no history of trading Heinz securities in the last six months. Overall trading activity in Heinz call options several days before the announcement had been minimal.
In the age of lightning fast trades and movement of funds to offshore accounts, the SEC’s immediate strike demonstrates that it too, has the sophistication and international cooperation to freeze offshore accounts tied to insider-trading.