Federal authorities investigating insider trading networks are targeting consultants who may have advised hedge funds in exchange for cash, The Wall Street Journal reports today. Of seven consultants facing criminal charges for supplying secret information to hedge funds, each received cash payments of up to $200,000 for their efforts, the publication asserts.
At the center of the investigation are clients of "expert-network" organizations, which connect "experts" (consultants) with hedge funds and other institutions that stand to benefit from the knowledge the network provides. Authorities suggest that legal abuses are "pervasive" in such circumstances; one Manhattan federal attorney called them "corrupt networks". The expert-network currently in focus is Primary Global, called the country's fifth most profitable outfit of its kind. A handful of Primary Global consultants are currently behind bars awaiting a variety of fraud charges; the firm's client list provides prosecutors with a roadmap of where to look next.
As we all know, the term "consultant" can be applied to almost any role in business. In this context, it could ultimately be defined as someone with valuable information (as opposed to expertise or experience, the currencies upon which legitimate consultants base their trade), who's willing to advise a client based on that information—but not to reveal it wholesale. Whether or not the actual information is divulged, though, doesn't much matter. Whatever way you spin it, it's insider trading.
All seven recently-charged consultants look set for lengthy terms in prison. Several investigations used wiretaps, the source not only of the damning evidence against the defendants, but also suggesting a much wider scope of participants than was previously assumed. The corporations whose information was sold operate in the tech sector, the Journal suggests.
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