OAN’s Brooke Mallory
12:55 PM – Thursday, June 29, 2023
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has now charged a former Pfizer employee with alleged insider trading after he gained 2,458% by buying out-of-the-money call options one day before the company’s Paxlovid drug announcement.
Former Pfizer statistician Amit Dagar and his business partner, Atul Bhiwapurkar, were charged in connection with the company’s November 5th, 2021, announcement that a randomized, double-blind study of Paxlovid, the company’s COVID-19 antiviral treatment, had been successful, which sent the stock up nearly 11%.
The investigation was initiated by the SEC’s Market Abuse Unit’s Analysis and Detection Center, which employs data analysis technologies to discover abnormal trading patterns.
Dagar was a senior statistical program lead for the Paxlovid medication study, which began in July 2021 as part of Pfizer’s attempts to combat the worldwide virus, according to the SEC’s lawsuit. The complaint noted that Dagar learned crucial, non-public information regarding the trial’s results the day before the Paxlovid announcement.
The SEC claims that Dagar’s superior informed him through a conversation that they “got the outcome,” and how there was “a lot of work lined up,” and that a “press release” would be issued sometime “tomorrow.” Dagar gleefully responded, letting him know the message was received.
Dagar reportedly acquired short-term, out-of-the-money Pfizer call options, including options that expired the next day, and then tipped Bhiwapurkar, who also purchased comparable call options on Pfizer a few hours after that exchange.
According to the complaint, Dagar’s and Bhiwapurkar’s trading earned them around $214,395 and $60,300 in unlawful gains, or one-day investment returns of 2,458% and 791%, respectively.
“As alleged in our complaint, Amit Dagar misused his access to confidential clinical trial results to enrich himself and his friend,” said Joseph Sansone, Chief of the SEC’s Market Abuse Unit. “Dagar and Bhiwapurkar allegedly leveraged this information by trading out-of-the-money call options to generate massive one-day returns. Thanks to our surveillance, the defendants must now face the consequences of their greed.”
The recent complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. It accuses both men of violating the antifraud provisions of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Exchange Act Rule 10b-5.
The SEC is also seeking injunctive relief, disgorgement with prejudgment interest, and additional civil penalties.
On top of that, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has also filed criminal charges against Dagar and Bhiwapurkar.
The SEC’s ongoing investigation is led by Market Abuse Unit staff member Colby Steele, with help from Patrick McCluskey of the Market Abuse Unit’s Analysis and Detection Center. It will be overseen by Paul Kim and Sansone.
Charlie Divine and Steele will lead the SEC’s case, which will be overseen by James Connor. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission thanked the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for their help.
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