Nobody Is That Lucky, Prosecutor Tells Insider-Trading Jury
(Bloomberg) -- For anyone to successfully trade five times in a row on health-care mergers, they need inside information, a prosecutor told a jury in the retrial of former Perella Weinberg Partners LP managing director Sean Stewart.
“Winning the lottery once takes astronomical odds, winning it five times -- that doesn’t happen,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Samson Enzer said in his closing argument Tuesday.
Stewart is on trial accused of tipping his father -- Bob -- about pending mergers. While Bob and two associates pocketed $1.1 million from trades on the information, Sean didn’t get any of the profit. The jury will have to decide whether Sean told his dad about the mergers with the intent that Bob would use the information to trade.
The jury is scheduled to start deliberations Sept. 23.
Prosecutors argued that Sean knew exactly what would happen when gave tips to his father. Bob was struggling to make ends meet and the ensuing trades would bring profits that would rescue his dad from financial hardships.
Sean also thought he was above the law and he was greedy, prosecutors said. He wanted to help Bob, he just didn’t want to reach into his own pockets, they told the jury.
Stewart’s lawyer Lawrence Gerschwer argued that “dumb trading” showed Stewart’s innocence, pointing to expired call options during the trades. There was no chance of making bad bets if Stewart was funneling the details of the mergers to his dad, Gerschwer said.
Stewart had no reason to become a ringleader in an insider-trading scheme, let alone one that would send as much as 90% of profits to Richard Cunniffe, a co-conspirator who placed trades on Bob’s behalf, Gerschwer said.
The case is a “sad story” of a father’s betrayal, choosing money over his own son, Gerschwer told the jury.
“It makes no sense for Sean Stewart to do this,” he added. “It’s his own father that put him in this position.”
Sean was convicted in a 2016 trial and sentenced to three years in prison. But an appeals court overturned the verdict in 2018, ruling the judge should’ve let Bob’s statements to the FBI -- which undercut a key prosecutors’ argument -- be presented to the jury.
Prosecutors are taking a second stab at the case, hampered this time by not being allowed to present to the jury a clip of a recording in which Bob recounted that his son chastised him for not investing when he gave him information “on a silver platter.” The judge barred the prosecution from using that part of the recording, which helped convict Sean the first time.
During the weeklong retrial, prosecutors leaned on phone records and emails to show Sean’s knowledge of the mergers coincided with details Bob shared with his co-conspirator, Cunniffe, and another man, Mark Boccia. Both of them testified for the government.
Boccia was granted immunity from prosecution. Cunniffe, a former friend of Bob’s who cooperated with prosecutors, allowed FBI agents to record meetings and a phone call he had with him.
Prosecutors also called more than a dozen other witnesses, including Sean’s former colleagues and FBI agents, along with investigators at the Securities and Exchange Commission and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
Stewart didn’t take the stand.
Prosecutors said it didn’t matter that Stewart never got a dime of the profits, or that he didn’t want his dad to trade on their conversations. He knew what the outcome would be, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Cooper told the jury.
“There’s no such thing as halfway insider trading,” Cooper concluded.
The case is U.S. v. Stewart, 15-cr-287, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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