A New Jersey insurance broker yesterday pleaded guilty to insider trading using information received from the husband of a secretary who handled mergers and acquisitions at a prominent New York law firm.
Ronald A. Manzo, 60, also lied to regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission who were investigating purchases of seven stocks in 1998 and 1999, federal prosecutors in New York said. He earned more than $980,000 through the scheme, they said.
Manzo could be sentenced to 40 years in prison and be fined millions of dollars.
Prosecutors yesterday unsealed a related guilty plea by Fiore J. Gallucci, who allegedly passed information about pending deals from his wife, an assistant at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, to Manzo to curry favor with him.
Gallucci, 62, received some money from Manzo but did not trade in the stocks himself. His wife, who no longer works at Skadden, did not know he was improperly sharing the information and was not charged with breaking the law, regulators said.
Gallucci could be sentenced to as long as 55 years in prison when he is sentenced later this year. "It's a tragedy for everybody," said Michael F. Bachner, a lawyer for Gallucci.
"Ron Manzo obviously deeply regrets his poor exercise of judgment," said his lawyer Lawrence S. Horn.
Separately, the SEC sued Gallucci, Manzo and Gary B. Taffet, a former chief of staff to New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey (D), for insider trades that resulted in $3 million in profit. The SEC said that Manzo tipped off Taffet using the information he had acquired from Gallucci. Gallucci and Manzo are in negotiations to settle the civil charges but Taffet, who was not charged with a crime, is fighting the allegations.
"We are disturbed at the SEC's decision to bring charges against Mr. Taffet, whose stock trading was not based on illegally obtained information," his lawyer, John B. Harris, said in a prepared statement. "The reality is that Mr. Taffet did not know or deal with any insider at the companies he traded, nor did he knowingly disclose nonpublic information to any third party."
Managers at Skadden, one of the most prominent dealmaking law firms in the world, said they cooperated with the investigation. Regulators said the practice of insider traders using information gathered from law firm employees is not uncommon.
"The lesson of this case is that people who are in possession of material nonpublic information for legitimate reasons need to carefully consider to whom they can entrust this information," said James T. Coffman, an SEC lawyer.