The Second Circuit ruled today that a “meaningfully close personal relationship” is not required for insider-trading liability where a tipper discloses inside information as a gift or in exchange for some other type of nonpecuniary personal benefit. The requisite personal benefit exists “whenever the information was disclosed ‘with the expectation that [the recipient] would trade on it’ . . . and the disclosure ‘resemble[s] trading by the insider followed by a gift of the profits to the recipient,’ . . . whether or not there was a ‘meaningfully close personal relationship’ between the tipper and the tippee.”
In what appears to be the first appellate decision since the Supreme Court’s December 2016 ruling in Salman v. United States, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed an insider-trading conviction based on a tip of material, nonpublic information. The February 24, 2017 decision in United States v. Bray held that the jury had sufficient evidence to conclude that, in soliciting and receiving a trading tip surreptitiously written on a pub-room napkin, the tippee had known that the tipper had provided the information in breach of his duty of confidentiality and in expectation of a personal benefit.
However, the court also made clear that a tippee cannot be criminally convicted for insider trading if he merely “should have known” of the tipper’s breach of duty. The court further held that a “willful blindness” or “conscious avoidance” standard cannot be based on mere negligence (at least in a criminal case).
The Supreme Court confirmed today that the “personal benefit” required to establish a claim for insider trading can consist of making a gift of material, nonpublic information to a family member or friend and that an exchange of “something of a pecuniary or similarly valuable nature” is not required. The…
All eyes were on the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday as it heard arguments in Salman v. United States (No. 15-628) concerning the “personal benefit” required to establish a claim for insider trading. After an hour punctuated by the Justices’ constant questioning of attorneys for both the defendant and the government, it appears unlikely that the Supreme Court will radically depart from its 1983 decision in Dirks v. SEC, which held that insider trading violates the federal securities laws if an insider makes a gift of nonpublic information to a trading relative or friend.