Bangkok resident Badin Rungruangnavarat has been accused of illegally trading in stocks with advance knowledge of the $4.7 billion Shuanghui International Holdings, Ltd. acquisition of Smithfield Foods, Inc. (NYSE:SFD), earning a profit of more than $3 million.
The Securities and Exchange Commission unsealed a complaint filed against Rungruangnavarat in Illinois federal court on Thursday.
The agency has already obtained an emergency court order freezing his allegedly ill-gotten proceeds and barring him from destroying evidence.
Rungruangnavarat allegedly bought thousands of Smithfield stock options and futures over several days leading up to the deal’s announcement. The deal ranked as the largest Chinese acquisition of a U.S. firm in history, with Smithfield stocks opening 25 percent higher one day after the announcement.
“The defendant’s well-timed trades yielded unrealized gains of more than $3.2 million,” the complaint read. “He reaped a return on investment of more than 3,400 percent in a span of eight days.”
The complaint alleges that Rungruangnavarat, an employee of a plastics company, essentially cornered a sizeable portion of Smithfield’s stock, controlling the equivalent of 580,000 shares, or about 29 percent of Smithfield’s average daily trading volume for May.
According to the press release, Rungruangnavarat may have been tipped off by a Facebook friend who worked at an investment bank. That bank, in turn, was advising Thailand food giant Charoen Pokphand Foods, PLC (OTCMKTS:CPOKY), which was actively exploring a bid for Smithfield.
Neither the friend nor the investment bank were named in the complaint.
The SEC said that an investigation is ongoing and will seek civil fines from Rungruangnavarat.
Earlier in 2013, the SEC filed a similar complaint against overseas traders for insider trading, in relation to Warren Buffet’s decision to buy H.J. Heinz Co, Reuters reports.
“We will act quickly and decisively to uncover and take action against insider trading no matter where the trader resides or what types of securities are used to profit from nonpublic information,” Merri Jo Gilette, who directs the SEC’s Chicago office, said in a statement.
According to the SEC’s website, the agency took action against 58 cases of insider trading in fiscal year 2012. It charged at least nine people with insider trading in 2013, including Rengan Rajaratnam, Raj Rajaratnam’s younger brother.