Federal prosecutors have charged two San Diego businessmen with insider trading for allegedly using a confidential tip to snag $83,000 in profit when local biotech Ardea Biosciences was acquired in 2012.
Stockbroker Paul Rampoldi, 48, and his client Scott Blythe, 51, were charged in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury. The defendants allegedly used a tip from the then-director of information technology at Ardea, Michael Fefferman, to earn illegal returns of 1,500 percent.
According to court records, Fefferman learned of the impending acquisition of Ardea in April of 2012, and knew that this was confidential news that would boost Ardea’s stock price.
From here, the information spread. Before the merger was announced to the public, Fefferman passed the tip to his brother-in-law Chad Wiegand, a licensed stockbroker at National Planning Corp., according to prosecutors. Then Wiegand passed the information on to his co-worker at NPC, Akis Eracleous, also a licensed stockbroker. Eracleous, in turn, passed the tip to Rampoldi and Blythe, prosecutors said.
The three agreed that Blythe would trade on the information in his non-NPC brokerage account, and they would all share the profits, prosecutors said.
On the Friday afternoon before the deal was announced, Blythe purchased more than $5,000 in Ardea options. He sold the options the following Monday for $88,000, according to prosecutors.
Wiegand and Eracleous each pleaded guilty previously to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and insider trading. They are scheduled to be sentenced in October.
Fefferman’s prosecution was deferred contingent on continued cooperation with investigators.
Ardea Biosciences recently reported sizable layoffs in San Diego and acknowledged that the company would soon close its doors completely. This was following the acquisition of the company by AstraZeneca, which paid $1.26 billion for the firm four years ago.