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By Michelle Price
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Brooklyn man indicted for an insider trading scheme used information from a Bloomberg News reporter about certain deals to trade, according to a review of the charging documents, in a case that comes as the volume of leaked information about mergers and acquisitions is rising.
On March 23, a federal grand jury indicted 38 year-old Jason Peltz for trading on “material nonpublic information” obtained from a company insider and a financial reporter.
Peltz has been charged with securities fraud, money laundering, tax evasion, among other offenses, according to the indictment filed in the Eastern District of New York.
Reuters was unable to obtain contact information for Peltz and a company called Peltz Financial Firm, where the indictment says he was formerly the principal. His lawyer Jeremy Temkin of Morvillo Abramowitz law firm declined to comment.
The indictment does not name the journalist or the media outlet, but Reuters and other media outlets have identified him as Ed Hammond, a deals reporter with Bloomberg in New York, based on a review of articles mentioned in the indictment.
Hammond, who is not accused of any wrongdoing, declined to comment through a spokeswoman.
“Ed Hammond is a very accomplished reporter. We’re not aware of any facts to suggest any wrongdoing on his part,” the same Bloomberg spokeswoman said in an email statement.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Brooklyn prosecutors declined to comment.
Among the trades Peltz allegedly executed, the indictment said, was the purchase of securities and options in chemical manufacturer Ferro (NYSE:) Corp.. based on information, obtained from a friend, that Ferro had received a takeover offer.
After Peltz began placing the trades with the help of co-conspirators between Feb. 22, 2016 and March 11, 2016, Peltz had “numerous contacts” with Hammond over the phone and in person, the indictment alleges. Bloomberg published a story by Hammond about the approach on March 15, 2016, which pushed Ferro’s stock up 4.7%.
A spokesperson for Ferro did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case casts a stark light on the workings of the world of corporate mergers and acquisitions, where a cadre of bankers, lawyers and other advisers as well as executives know about talks. Information often leaks, studies have shown.
Despite a long-term trend of increased oversight and enforcement, the percentage of M&A deal leaked globally increased 1.3 points to 8.7% in 2019, the second-highest rate in a decade, according to research published by the University of London last year.
Wall Street intermediaries have an incentive to leak prospective deals because doing so typically attracts more suitors, driving up the target price, the report said.
“The motivations for intermediaries and other sell-side parties related to M&A transactions to leak information are clear. Our research shows that over the past ten years leaked deals have commanded an average premium that is 124 percent higher than for non-leaked deals,” the reported noted.
Apart from the Ferro deal, Peltz is accused of continuing to have frequent conversations with Hammond during which he obtained material nonpublic information about stories Hammond was working on regarding certain companies.
Peltz used this information “to trade in certain companies’ stocks just prior to the publication of an article about each respective company written by the Reporter,” the indictment alleges.
Those were biopharmaceutical companies Medivation Inc and INC Research Holdings, communications company R.R. Donnelley and healthcare provider Community Health (NYSE:) Systems Inc., according to the indictment.
Each of the stories referenced in the indictment cite multiple sources and involved two or more reporters.
The companies did not immediately return Reuters requests seeking comment.