SEC Files Credit Default Swaps Insider Trading Case

The SEC filed the first case alleging insider trading in credit default swaps (CDS) yesterday. It’s likely the first of many. CDS’s are derivatives which are essentially a form of insurance against a bond default. The $38.6 trillion CDS market is rife with problems and was used to wildly speculate on prospects of companies.

The SEC brought the case in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York. The complaint alleges that Jon-Paul Rorech, a 38-year-old salesman for Deutsche Bank AG, passed confidential information about the 2006 buyout of Dutch media company VNU NV to Renato Negrin, a 45-year-old former trader for the hedge fund Millennium Partners. The complaint also alleges that Mr. Rorech told Mr. Negrin about the new bond offering for VNU and when Mr. Negrin asked to handicap the likelihood of the deal, Mr. Rorech said, “You’re listening to my silence, right?” The two men then had a three-minute cell phone call and ten days later after Mr. Negrin had bought €20 million of credit-default swaps on VNU, he had pocketed a cool €950,000, or $1.2 million. Not bad for a weeks work.

However, the interesting aspect of the SEC complaint is not that the alleged fraud took place in the CDS market, it is that there are still allegations of employees of banks providing selective information to hedge funds and other high priority clients prior to disseminating said information to the public. Despite the public outcry over the research analyst scandals in the early 2000’s, banks continue to have two sets of playing rules: one for the big hitters and another for the little guys. Hopefully, the SEC’s new found set of sharp teeth will eventually even the playing field.

The case is Securities and Exchange Commission v. Jon-Paul Rorech, et. al., Civil Action No. 09 CV 4329- (JGK)(SDNY). The complaint is available on the SEC’s website.