The Washington Post

Chinese meat processor Shuanghui International agreed to buy Smithfield Foods Inc. earlier this year. A trader in Thailand agreed to pay $5.2 million Thursday to settle charges that he traded on an illegal tip involving the sale of Smithfield Foods. (LM Otero/AP)

A trader in Thailand agreed to pay $5.2 million to settle charges that he traded on an illegal tip involving the sale of Smithfield Foods, the federal government said Thursday.

The Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that Badin Rungruangnavarat got word of the Virginia company’s sale days before it was made public, purchased a large amount of Smithfield securities and made $3.2 million from well-timed trades.

Rungruangnavarat tried to withdraw the illicit profits from his U.S. brokerage account. But the SEC froze his assets in June, blocking him from transferring the proceeds overseas.

“Our quick action in June to stop Badin’s insider trading profits from leaving the U.S. made this multi-million dollar settlement possible,” Daniel M. Hawke, chief of the SEC’s market abuse unit, said in a statement.

Rungruangnavarat did not admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement. But he agreed to pay a $2 million penalty and return the ill-gotten gains, the agency said.

“We’re pleased that we could reach a mutually-agreeable settlement with the SEC so quickly,” said Rungruangnavarat’s attorney, Pravin Rao of Perkins Coie in Chicago.

The SEC alleged that the illegal tip may have come from a Facebook friend who worked at an investment bank that was advising one of the companies interested in purchasing Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer.

On May 29, Smithfield announced that a Chinese firm had agreed to purchase it for $4.7 billion, the largest takeover of an American consumer brand by a Chinese buyer.

In its complaint, filed in a federal district court in Chicago, the SEC said Rungruangnavarat reaped a 3,400 percent return on his investment.

Dina ElBoghdady covers housing policy for The Washington Post.
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