A former Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) examiner who used insider information about an ongoing fraud investigation to obtain the chief compliance officer job with a private equity firm has been sentenced to nine months of home confinement.
Michael Cohn, who worked as a securities compliance examiner in the Asset Management Unit of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, pled guilty to a misdemeanor theft charge in September. In his plea, Cohn admitted he accessed confidential information regarding the SEC investigation into GPB Capital Holdings, a Long Island-based company that hired him to be its CCO, even as the firm was under investigation by the SEC for securities fraud. He had been charged with theft of government property, which is a felony, as well as obstruction of justice and the unauthorized disclosure of public information.
On Wednesday, Judge Gary Brown of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York sentenced Cohn to nine months home confinement, according to Reuters.
In a March 15 sentencing memorandum, prosecutors recommended Cohn be sentenced to six months in prison. Prosecutors said that while he was not part of the team investigating GPB Capital, Cohn accessed documents related to the investigation in order to enhance his chances of being hired by the firm.
“Not only did the defendant divulge non-public, confidential information about the GPB investigation to GPB leadership, he accepted a position as Chief Compliance Officer, a role that necessarily encompasses oversight over the very investigation he unlawfully learned about when at the SEC,” according to the sentencing memorandum. “By accepting that role, Cohn put himself in a position to unlawfully influence GPB’s response to the SEC’s investigation, as it would be impossible for him to detach himself from the confidential insider information he learned as a result of his crimes.”
In February, the SEC filed a complaint against GPB Capital alleging the firm, its CEO, and the head of its placement agency defrauded 17,000 retail investors of $1.7 billion in a Ponzi-like scheme. The SEC requested an independent monitor to oversee the case as “necessary and appropriate for the protection of investors.”
Judge Margo Brodie of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York approved the SEC’s request on Feb. 12, appointing Joseph Gardemal, managing director of Alvarez & Marsal, as the independent monitor.
GPB Capital did not reply to a request for comment.
Editor’s note: An original version of this story said Cohn “admitted he passed along confidential information.” It has been updated to clarify Cohn “admitted he accessed confidential information regarding the SEC investigation.” Further, a correction has been made that prosecutors recommended Cohn be sentenced to six months in prison. The original version incorrectly had a recommendation of six months of home confinement.