A Georgetown man was named last week in a lawsuit as a participant in an alleged insider-trading ring that pulled down more than $11 million in illicit gains.
Federal stock market regulators identified Roger A. Williams, 51, as one of the investors who profited handsomely from confidential information that two financial professionals shared with friends and family members in five states.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission brought the lawsuit in North Carolina on Wednesday.
The agency alleges that Wells Fargo Securities investment banker John W. Femenia misused his position to obtain confidential insider information about four corporate mergers involving the firm’s publicly traded clients.
Femenia and longtime friend Shawn C. Hegedus, who was a registered broker, then passed on those tips, either directly or indirectly, to Williams and seven other people in the Carolinas, Florida, California and New York.
“Here you have an investment banker who clearly knew better that inside information can’t form the basis of trading decisions,” said William P. Hicks, associate director for enforcement in the SEC’s Atlanta office. “Instead he basically started a phone tree of nonpublic information to enrich friends and others.”
Williams earned as much as $3.3 million in profits and paid nearly $550,000 to a company controlled by tipsters Femenia and Hegedus, according to the lawsuit.
Williams could not be reached for comment. His last known address was a creekfront home on Luvan Boulevard in Debordieu Colony, an upscale gated resort near Pawleys Island.
The SEC said the most recent illicit trades involved the July acquisition of The Shaw Group by Chicago Bridge & Iron Co.
Big mergers create opportunities for investors who have the information first to cash in on a stock’s direction before others, said David Hoyle, The Shaw Group’s lead outside director and North Carolina’s top tax official.
“Anytime there’s some kind of merger opportunity, there’s always folks that have the opportunity because they know more than somebody else,” Hoyle said.
In this case, the “serial” trading took place between March 2010 and July this year, the SEC said. The federal agency has obtained a court order freezing the assets of the defendants.
The lawsuit said Williams relayed the information he obtained to two friends in Charlotte and another in Greer, where Williams once lived.
The 47-page complaint includes precise details about the flurry of calls among the investors, including dates, times and the lengths of the conversations.
Femenia did not return a call seeking comment last week. He was based in Wells Fargo’s Charlotte office in 2010 and 2011 and has since moved to New York. Hegedus, who was Williams’ financial adviser several years ago, could not be reached.
The three earlier trades involved the buyouts of ATC Technology Corp. by GENCO Distribution Systems; Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. by Rock-Tenn Co. and K-Sea Transportation Partners by Kirby Corp.
Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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