Commentary: fear of feds weighs on stock traders’ minds

On Behalf of | May 26, 2015 | White Collar Crime

It’s likely that most readers of our blog do not work in a career where they repeatedly experience fear that just routinely going about their work may be exposing them to legal liability.

And by legal liability we mean the potential for one or more criminal charges and a lengthy prison term.

Although working with that aura of surrounding stress and even flat-out paranoia is clearly antithetical to a healthy work existence, it is reportedly the reality for many Wall Street money managers and their peers working elsewhere across the United States.

The reason: There are a plethora of rules and regulations defining what is legal and what is illegal regarding the handling of information that results in the trading of stocks and securities, and the line that divides lawful and unlawful behavior can sometimes be less than clearly delineated.

Put another way: Some industry insiders say that a so-called “bright line” that defines insider trading and other unlawful behaviors is not consistently shining or even evident and that they harbor ongoing fears that they might be inadvertently crossing it.

And, for some, that fear never goes away. “]I]t was just a debilitating low-level constant that ate away at my psyche and my overall being,” says the co-founder of one trading who was charged by federal prosecutors with illegal trading and conspiracy. He refused a plea bargain deal, ended up losing his case at trial and was sentenced to a 21-month prison term.

Traders’ fears stem largely from ambiguities relating to the flow of information. Is it public knowledge? If it is not, is it far enough away from an original source that it can be acted upon legally? Conversely, is a listener who is inclined to act upon it by trading hearing it only because a company insider breached a fiduciary duty by divulging it?

Those distinctions can be murky. The muddied clarity can also send people to prison.

White collar prosecutions and criminal charges often revolve around matters that are opaque and manifestly complicated.

A proven criminal defense attorney can help unravel complexities and argue a case in a manner that best promotes the legal interests of an accused individual.

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