Once Headhunted by Goldman, Now on Trial for Insider Trading

(Bloomberg) -- Before a former UBS Group AG compliance officer was charged with insider trading, she was in a position many bankers would envy: she had a job offer from Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

In early 2013, Goldman Sachs recruited Fabiana Abdel-Malek for a compliance officer post in its fixed-income business in London. She was unsure whether to stay in UBS’s "more friendly" environment or to challenge herself at a "more hungry" Goldman and spoke about it with her friends, family and a priest at her church.

“Please remember me in the mass today and place my name on the altar," Abdel-Malek texted the priest. “I am so confused and I don’t know what God wants me to do." The text messages were shown to a London jury Thursday.

“I’m regarded to be a queen here,” Abdel-Malek texted her sister as she weighed up her choices, according to a message shown to the jury. “I can’t sleep because I feel sick about it," she texted another friend. "One minute I want to move and take on the challenge and reward, then I imagine being at Goldman and I start panicking!!"

When the job offer came through, the 36-year-old went to tell her UBS managers. They persuaded her to stay, promising her a promotion and a bright future, Abdel-Malek told the jury on her second day of testimony. UBS increased Abdel-Malek’s annual salary to 80,000 pounds ($102,000), according to a letter from the bank shown in court.

Accusations

That summer, according to prosecutors from the Financial Conduct Authority, Abdel-Malek started leaking confidential deals information to a wealthy friend, Walid Choucair, who made 1.4 million pounds by trading on her tips. It’s the FCA’s only insider trading prosecution in three years. Abdel-Malek and Choucair, 40, deny the allegations.

Abdel-Malek repeatedly accessed UBS’s confidential deals database, on five occasions checking out companies that Choucair traded on shortly afterwards. Abdel-Malek said that she looked at lots of companies, in part to educate herself on how deals worked, sometimes to keep abreast of things she needed to be aware of and occasionally due to sheer nosiness.

That was the case when she looked up the records for Vodafone Group Plc’s planned acquisition of Kabel Deutschland Holding AG in 2013, she said. UBS was advising Vodafone, one of its biggest clients, and her colleagues in compliance kept talking about it, she said.

Once Headhunted by Goldman, Now on Trial for Insider Trading

“It was being talked about every day,” she said. “I was just curious to see what was going on. I was with my team, they’re all talking, they’re sitting next to me by my desk. It’s all very collegiate.”

Abdel-Malek said she first accessed the UBS database entry about the deal even before it became a topic of conversation, because she spotted a familiar name when she was looking for deals to stay abreast of. But she wasn’t sure why she kept coming back to the deal in the next few weeks, she said.

"Unfortunately, I didn’t appreciate how frequently I was accessing the transaction until I saw it in the evidence," Abdel-Malek said. "I think it was partly reflex, partly nosiness. It was just something I was interested in at this point."

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