U.S. authorities allege that an employee of a PR firm hired to handle crisis communications for credit reporting agency Equifax Inc. after a massive cyber breach tipped her partner who engaged in insider trading on the news.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged three people — the finance manager at the PR firm, her partner and his brother — for allegedly engaging in tipping and insider trading.
According to the allegations, Ann Dishinger, who worked at a PR firm that was hired to help handle the news of Equifax’s 2017 breach, tipped her partner before the breach was disclosed.
He allegedly tipped his brother and they both traded on the information by buying put options on Equifax through brokerage accounts owned by friends, with the understanding that they would split the profits.
The SEC’s complaint alleged that one of the brothers wrote a cheque for the cost of buying the options, “scribbling in the [cheque’s] memo line the words, ‘Blue Horseshoe,’ an apparent reference to the coded language used to convey inside information in the 1987 movie Wall Street.”
The illegal trading allegedly netted over US$100,000 in profits, the regulator said.
Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, the brothers both consented to the entry of a final judgment that orders them to pay almost US$200,000 in penalties, disgorgement and interest. Those settlements are subject to court approval.
The litigation against Dishinger is pending, and the allegations against her have not been proven.
The SEC previously charged a couple of Equifax employees with insider trading in connection with the same breach in 2017.