A manager has been found guilty of illegally selling shares based on inside information, in the latest case brought by the City watchdog in its campaign to stamp out market abuse.
A jury at Southwark Crown Court found Neil Rollins, a former senior manager of PM Group, guilty on five counts of insider dealing and four of money laundering.
The prosecution is the fifth successful insider dealing case to be brought by the Financial Services Authority. Some critics have accused the FSA of prosecuting small-time traders rather than big City figures – although the regulator did secure the conviction of Malcolm Calvert, a former partner at City firm Cazenove, for insider trading offences.
The court heard that Mr Rollins sold his shares in the company, which made systems for weighing lorry loads, during August and September 2006, despite having “sensitive information” about its worsening financial position and falling sales.
Tony Shaw, prosecuting for the FSA, told the jury that Mr Rollins and other employees had been instructed by the company that they could not deal in PM shares during its “closed period” – the two months before the company formally announced its financial results. However, Mr Rollins sold more than 70,000 shares in that period.
He also encouraged his wife to sell shares, and when he became aware of the FSA’s interest in his dealing he laundered the proceeds to try to hide his conduct.
The jury was told that Mr Rollins, who denied the charges, was one of only a few senior managers not to have any pension arrangements, and he wanted to use the shares to retire on.
Gareth Rees, representing Mr Rollins, told the court that his client was expecting to be sent to prison and asked for sentencing to be postponed until after Christmas. Insider dealing carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years.
Margaret Cole, managing director of enforcement and financial crime at the FSA, said: “Insider dealing is not a victimless crime and we remain committed to stamping out this type of fraud by those trusted with inside information.”
PM Group, which was listed on the junior stock market AIM, was acquired by Vishay Intertechnology in 2007. Mr Rollins will be sentenced on January 21.
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