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Hedge fund adviser charged with inadequate insider trading controls

Joe Mont | August 22, 2017

Hedge fund advisory firm Deerfield Management Company has agreed to pay more than $4.6 million to settle charges bright by the Securities and Exchange Commission that it failed to establish, maintain, and enforce policies and procedures reasonably designed to prevent the misuse of inside information, including information about confidential government decisions.

The announcement, made on Aug. 21, relates to insider trading charges the SEC recently filed against current and former Deerfield analysts, a political intelligence analyst who passed them information, and an employee at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

According to the SEC’s order, Deerfield conducted extensive research in the health care sector to help inform its investment decisions, and engaged research firms specializing in political intelligence about upcoming regulatory and legislative decisions. Deerfield’s policies and procedures, however, required only an initial review of the research firms’ own policies and procedures. It otherwise placed the burden on its own employees to police themselves by identifying issues and informing supervisors.

The SEC’s order finds that Deerfield was on notice that the political intelligence analyst might be conveying material, nonpublic information. An e-mail from the analyst said that he “heard from a reliable CMS source” that it was about to issue a regulation, and an internal Deerfield email noted that the analyst “has a guy” at a “closed-door” government meeting. 

From at least May 2012 to November 2013, Deerfield generated more than $3.9 million in trading profits based on material, nonpublic information from the political intelligence analyst,” the SEC alleges. Through its management agreements with the hedge funds, including performance-based compensation, Deerfield received approximately $714,110 due to these trades.

“An investment adviser’s policies and procedures must be tailored to address the specific risks presented by its business,” Robert Cohen, co-chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Market Abuse Unit, said in a statement. “Deerfield relied on political intelligence firms, creating a risk that it would receive and trade on illegal inside information. As it turns out, that is exactly what happened,”

Without admitting or denying the findings, Deerfield consented to the SEC’s order finding that it violated Section 204A of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 by failing to establish, maintain, and enforce policies and procedures reasonably designed to prevent the misuse of material, nonpublic information. Deerfield is censured and required to pay disgorgement of $714,110 plus interest of $97,585 and pay a penalty of $3,946,267.