Kenneth P. Felis, a stockbroker who was convicted of fraud and conspiracy for using advance information leaked by former Wall Street Journal columnist R. Foster Winans yesterday was permanently barred from the securities business by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Felis, who formerly worked for Kidder Peabody & Co., also was ordered to repay almost $160,000 -- his share of the illegal profits from the scheme.
Felis was convicted last June 24, along with Winans and David J. Carpenter, Winan's roommate, both of whom are scheduled to be sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. Felis, found guilty on 41 counts, will be sentenced on Wednesday.
Winans was found guilty of 59 counts of fraud and conspiracy, and Carpenter was convicted on 12 counts.
Each could be sentenced to prison for a maximum of five years and could be fined up to $10,000 for each count of fraud and conspiracy. Their lawyers have said they will appeal.
According to the prosecution, Winans and Felis, plus another Kidder Peabody broker, Peter N. Brant, hatched a scheme in October 1983 that eventually resulted in profits of $918,627. For several months, Winans, who wrote the Journal's influential "Heard on the Street" column, passed information to the brokers about upcoming stories before they were published.
Winans and Carpenter netted $31,000 from the scheme, the prosecution alleged. Brant pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was the chief witness against the other three. In July of last year, Brant signed a consent agreement with the SEC, neither admitting nor denying guilt, and was ordered to give up $454,000, his share of the profits. He was permanently barred from the securities business.
The Winans case not only embarassed the nation's most prestigious financial publication, but also established new legal standards for reporters covering Wall Street. The SEC accused Winans of insider trading for not disclosing his financial interest in the securities he wrote about. Among other arguments, prosecuters in the criminal case contended Winans violated his legal duties to Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal. The laws prohibiting insider trading have traditionally been applied only to corporate executives or others with access to company secrets. Winans' lawyers have assailed the SEC action on First Amendment grounds, contending the insider trading laws do not cover the offenses with which he was charged.
The SEC, which was asked to delay its civil action until the outcome of the criminal trial, announced yesterday that Felis had signed a consent decree under which he was barred from further trading and ordered to return his profits of $160,000.
A separate SEC civil complaint against Winans and Carpenter alleging securities fraud and requiring restitution of $31,000 is still pending; in that case, the SEC contends not only that Winans violated his legal duties to Dow Jones, but also his obligations to readers. Also pending is a civil complaint against David W. C. Clark, an attorney, who allegedly made some $300,000 in the scheme. Clark has not been indicted but is under criminal investigation, according to the U.S. attorney's office.