A former KPMG partner who had been charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission with insider trading has been ordered to pay a civil penalty of $125,000 and suspended from appearing or practicing before the Commission as an attorney or accountant.
On Aug. 2, in addition to ordering the civil penalty, the court entered an order permanently enjoining Thomas Avent from violating the anti-fraud provisions of Sections 10(b) and 14(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rules 10b-5 and 14e-3.
Between 1999 and 2016, Avent was a tax partner at KPMG, where he led a practice group that performed due diligence in connection with upcoming mergers and acquisitions. In July 2016, the SEC filed a complaint against Avent in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia that alleged, among other things, that, “in connection with the purchase or sale of securities, Avent misappropriated material, non-public information from KPMG about three potential acquisitions of publicly traded companies while performing tax due diligence work for three KPMG clients between 2011 and 2012.”
Specifically, Avent tipped this information to his stockbroker at the time, Raymond Pirrello, about the three potential acquisitions, the SEC alleged in its complaint. Pirrello, in turn, passed the tips on to his former colleague and longtime friend, Lawrence Penna.
“Penna then arranged to buy stocks or call options of all three target companies before the acquisitions were announced to the public,” according to the SEC complaint. “As a result, Penna got an illegal jump on other investors, and he and his family made over $111,000 in illicit insider-trading profits.”
Additionally, the SEC said, “Avent received a personal benefit from the registered representative in exchange for sharing the material, non-public information.” Avent agreed to the order without admitting or denying the findings.