SEC charges William Marovitz, spouse of Playboy’s Christie Hefner, with insider trading
Don’t say she didn’t warn him.
As chief executive of Playboy Enterprises, Christie Hefner was so concerned about the risks of her husband, William A. Marovitz, buying or selling any Playboy stock that she asked Playboy’s general counsel to talk to him, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The general counsel faxed a memo to Marovitz’s home and office on Sept. 4, 1998, warning that “all SEC rules governing Christie’s sale or purchase of stock are equally applicable to you, particularly the rules governing insider trading,” the SEC said.
Apparently, Marovitz didn’t take the warning to heart.
The SEC charged him with insider trading Wednesday, alleging that he used confidential information “misappropriated” from his wife to reap profits or avoid losses of $100,952.
Without admitting or denying wrongdoing, Marovitz, 66, settled the case by agreeing to pay $168,352, the SEC said. The deal is subject to court approval.
Marovitz had no comment on the charges but wanted “to note that he lost a substantial amount of money on his investments in Playboy stock,” said his attorney, James Streicker.
Marovitz is president of a real estate investment and development company that bears his name, according to the SEC. The lawyer and resident of Chicago has invested in restaurants and served in the Illinois House and Senate.
As a blogger for the Huffington Post, he spoke of being friends with “Barack” in a 2008 entry looking forward to the convention at which President Obama received the Democratic Party’s nomination.
The SEC accused Marovitz of betraying Hefner, to whom he’s been married since 1995.
“Marovitz breached the fiduciary duties of trust and confidence which he owed to Hefner and Playboy by purchasing and selling Playboy securities on the basis of material, non-public information,” the SEC charged.
An SEC examination of a brokerage firm put the agency on his trail, the SEC said.
Hefner, 58, daughter of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, was from 1988 to early 2009 chief executive of the company known for its iconic magazine. Said by many men to be read for its articles, the magazine also features pictures of naked women.
In 1998, Christie Hefner made clear to Marovitz that he was not to use any information he learned from her to trade Playboy shares, according to the SEC complaint. Although Playboy general counsel Howard Shapiro asked Marovitz to consult him before trading any Playboy stock, he never did, the SEC said.
The earliest of the trades the SEC cited was in 2004, when Marovitz bought shares in advance of a Playboy stock offering. Days later, when Playboy announced that it was raising additional money, the stock price rose by 8 percent.
Later in 2004, Marovitz sold all 25,000 of his Playboy shares after learning that the company’s second-quarter earnings report would be “negative,” the SEC said.
In November 2009, after learning that a company called Iconix Brand Group might buy Playboy, Marovitz bought 9,000 Playboy shares, the SEC said. When news of the deal was reported, the stock price soared by 42 percent.
But on Dec. 15, 2009, Hefner — no longer chief executive but still advising the company — received a pair of e-mails informing her that the deal was off. Within hours, Marovitz called his broker and instructed him to sell all of Marovitz’s Playboy shares, the SEC said.
The broker was able to sell only some of them before the close of trading that day, the SEC said.
By unloading shares before the price dropped, Marovitz avoided losses of $9,911.70, the SEC said.
The SEC lawsuit repeatedly says Marovitz obtained information “through Hefner.” It does not accuse her of leaking it to him, nor does it spell out specifically how he got the information.