Loose Lips at Brunswick: An Insider Tip Shared at a Paris Dinner

(Bloomberg) --

At the crack of dawn on a crisp day in January 2016, police officers massed outside a pair of homes in the Paris area. They hoped to make a breakthrough in two insider-trading probes. Their targets: a consultant at Brunswick Group LLP and a Societe Generale SA banker.

Candice Baudet Depierre, who had been hired by Brunswick in 2010, was placed in custody soon after the raid at her home and interrogated by police officers. The following day, after her release, she tried to explain to her bosses at the advisory firm what had happened.

Baudet Depierre admitted she may “have been imprudent during a dinner” in talking about an undisclosed Technip SA bid to take over oilfield surveyor CGG SA, according to court documents. It’s unclear who was privy to the discussion but Brunswick, which was involved in the tentative deal, fired her within days.

For more than five years, French authorities have been investigating the outsized gains made by a loose network of traders from suspicious bets on securities, including Airgas Inc. and Alstom SA. In recent months, links have also come to light between that probe and separate insider-trading cases in the U.S. and U.K. involving bankers at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and UBS Group AG as well as a trader who earned $70 million in illegal profit.

While the French raids at the home of the SocGen banker and the lender’s headquarters west of Paris were previously made public as part of a separate unfair dismissal lawsuit, Baudet Depierre’s involvement had remained confidential.

Bonus Owed

Details on her part in the case emerged in a December ruling from the Paris appeals court and a previous employment tribunal decision as part of an unfair dismissal lawsuit she lodged.

Her first attempt at obtaining compensation in court was unsuccessful, but the appellate judges ruled that while her dismissal was justified Brunswick still owed her an 11,000 euro ($12,200) bonus for 2015 and 15,000 euros for overtime work.

Baudet Depierre and her lawyer didn’t respond to requests for comment. Neither Brunswick nor SocGen are mentioned as having any involvement in any wrongdoing.

As part of her appeal, Baudet Depierre said she hasn’t faced any charges in the CGG case and suggested, without naming them, that other Brunswick staff members had also been investigated. Brunswick declined to comment beyond saying the case concerns only one former staff member who was interrogated four years ago. SocGen representatives declined to comment.

In court filings, Brunswick complained to the Paris court of appeals that Baudet Depierre’s imprudence threatened to tarnish the advisory firm’s reputation.

Networking ‘Encouraged’

Baudet Depierre countered by saying “Brunswick encouraged staff to do networking with bankers and lawyers, which necessarily meant sharing information,” according to the December ruling.

CGG rose on a November 2014 report that the firm was weighing a sale to Technip. Less than a month later, its shares slumped as much as 38% after Technip said it had halted its bid.

It is unclear how many people have been charged as part of the CGG probe in addition to Geneva trader Lucien Selce, whose lawyer disclosed the accusations against his client in yet another lawsuit.

Selce has always denied involvement in any insider trading and no trial has been ordered; his lawyer declined to comment. An official at the office of France’s financial prosecutor, the Parquet National Financier, also declined to comment on the investigations.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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