Former stock speculator Ivan F. Boesky traded futures contracts after reaching a settlement in his record $100 million insider trading case but before that settlement was announced, sources familiar with the trading records said yesterday.
Boesky secretly reached a settlement with federal authorities on Sept. 18, 1986, but the case against him was not announced until Nov. 14. During that interim period -- while he was cooperating with government investigators by tape-recording his conversations -- Boesky was trading futures contracts on the Standard & Poor's 500 index and the New York Stock Exchange composite index, sources familiar with the futures trading records said.
Boesky, who has been criticized for making money by selling hundreds of millions of dollars of stock just before the case against him was announced, apparently also profited from his futures trading at the same time, congressional investigators said yesterday. Stock index futures contracts allow speculators to bet on the overall direction of stock prices.
Boesky bought futures contracts that stood to become more valuable if stock prices fell, as they did after the massive insider trading case broke. Boesky regularly used such futures contracts as a device to minimize potential losses in his stock portfolio, and that may have been his strategy in this instance, sources said.
It was not possible to determine the results of Boesky's trades.
Sources said that neither Securities and Exchange Commission officials nor the Commodity Futures Trading Commission monitored Boesky's trading in futures just prior to his settlement announcement.
Boesky's futures trading will be discussed at a hearing this morning of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which has oversight responsibility for the CFTC. The trading records will be presented at the hearing.
As previously reported, Boesky sold hundreds of millions of dollars of stock just before the case against him was announced last November, a development that sparked harsh criticism of the SEC by Wall Street stock speculators known as arbitrageurs. Some of these arbitrageurs suffered losses in the days following the announcement of the case.
On Nov. 17 and 18, the first two trading days after the Boesky case was announced, the Dow Jones industrials plunged 56 points as stocks of many takeover targets fell. Boesky not only avoided losses on those days by selling hundreds of millions of dollars of stock before his case was announced, but also profited by cashing in some of his positions in financial futures, sources said.
The SEC has said it allowed Boesky to sell the stocks because it was concerned that a market panic might ensue if Boesky were forced to dump stock worth billions of dollars immediately following the disclosure.
The SEC's enforcement chief, Gary Lynch, has said that Boesky's trading while in possession of confidential information about his own case does not constitute illegal insider trading. There is no law against insider trading in the futures markets.
Others, especially those who suffered losses as a result of the Boesky case, have referred to the stock sales as Boesky's last great insider trades. Boesky was charged by the SEC with making about $50 million in illegal insider trading profits based on tips about upcoming corporate takeovers that he received from former investment banker Dennis B. Levine.
While there has been controversy about Boesky's stock sales, before today there have been no disclosure of Boesky's trades in financial futures contracts at about the time the charges against him were disclosed.
According to congressional sources who have had Boesky's trading records described to them, Boesky profited last Sept. 11 from his position in stock index futures when the stock market plunged more than 70 points in a day.
Boesky had bet that stocks would fall by "selling short" futures contracts that would increase in value if the market declined. The trading occurred while Boesky's lawyers were negotiating with the government.
Congressional sources also said that even as Boesky was selling his stock portfolio before the charges against him were announced, he was increasing his short position in stock index futures. That increase could indicate that Boesky was using the futures contracts to profit based on the assumption that stock prices would fall after his case was announced, congressional sources said.
However, other sources who have carefully reviewed Boesky's trading records said Boesky does not appear to have used the futures contracts to speculate that the stock market would fall after the case against him was announced. They said Boesky appeared to be using the futures as part of an overall "hedging" strategy meant to protect his investments while he was selling off his portfolio.
Neither the SEC's Lynch nor Boesky's attorneys would comment on the futures trading.