A New York investor relations executive has been charged with insider trading for using knowledge gained preparing press releases for Oxnard-based Clean Diesel Technologies for personal profit.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that Kevin McGrath bought stock in Clean Diesel Technologies when he learned about the company’s impending announcement of positive news and profited when its stock price nearly doubled. The SEC made no suggestion of any wrongdoing on the Clean Diesel’s part, and the company told the Business Times that it is no longer doing business with McGrath’s employer.
“Investor relations firms owe their clients a duty to maintain in strict confidence the important and sensitive information that clients impart for the sole purpose of obtaining help and advice on how best to communicate forthcoming news to investors,” Andrew M. Calamari, director of the SEC’s New York regional office, said in a release. “McGrath’s self-centered misconduct betrayed both his own firm and his firm’s clients whose confidential information he exploited for personal gain.”
The SEC alleged that McGrath worked on a press release in which Clean Diesel announced an order of $2 million in May 2011. Minutes after finding out that the press release was slated to run the next day, McGrath purchased 1,000 shares of Clean Diesel stock. The stock price rose 95 percent on the positive news. McGrath sold all of his Clean Diesel shares soon afterward and made $6,376 in profits.
McGrath also avoided losses on another company’s stock using insider information, the SEC alleged.
McGrath agreed to settle the charges by paying a disgorgement of $11,776, prejudgment interest of $1,492 and a penalty of $11,776 for a total of $25,044, the SEC said. McGrath neither admitted nor denied the allegations, but did agree not to violate insider trading rules again. The settlement still needs court approval.
The McGrath case is the second prominent instance of service providers betraying the trust of publicly traded companies in the Tri-Counties. Last year, regulators alleged that KMPG partner Scott London leaked inside information about Deckers Outdoor Corp. and Pacific Capital Bancorp to a friend who traded on the information. London pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 14 months in prison earlier this year.
[Editor's note: This story was updated with comments from Clean Diesel at 1:24 p.m. on July 22.]