US SEC obtains $42m over press release hacking plot

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US SEC obtains $42m over press release hacking plot

Insiders accessed pre-publication releases to make trades.

Two defendants have agreed to pay US$30 million (A$42 million) to settle US Securities and Exchange Commission civil insider trading charges over a scheme to hack into networks that distribute corporate news releases.

Jaspen Capital Partners and its CEO Andriy Supranonok, both from Kiev, Ukraine, are the first of 34 defendants to settle SEC charges over allegations of the theft of more than 150,000 press releases from Business Wire, Marketwired and PR Newswire before the news became public.

The SEC said the scheme resulted in more than US$100 million of illegal profit over a roughly five-year period.

Authorities said traders would give hackers "shopping lists" of press releases they wanted to see in advance, and then make trades based on them. Nine of the defendants also face criminal charges. Jaspen and Supranonok were not criminally charged.

The SEC said Jaspen and Supranonok used contracts-for-differences, which are derivatives allowing for leveraged stock price bets, to trade from 2010 to 2015 in Panera Bread, RadioShack and other companies based on press releases stolen from the three newswires.

Without admitting wrongdoing, the defendants agreed to transfer US$30 million of ill-gotten gains from frozen brokerage accounts, the SEC said. The accord requires court approval.

"Today's settlement demonstrates that even those beyond our borders who trade on stolen nonpublic information and use complex instruments in an attempt to avoid detection will ultimately be caught," SEC enforcement chief Andrew Ceresney said in a statement.

A lawyer for Jaspen and Supranonok did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The SEC said its civil case will continue against the other 32 defendants.

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