Legal Ethics

Associate Charged in Alleged $32M Insider Trading Scheme Involving 3 BigLaw Firms

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A former associate has been charged in an alleged $32 million insider trading scheme based on information he obtained while working at three of America’s largest law firms.

Matthew Kluger is accused of misappropriating information on mergers from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati; Cravath Swaine & Moore; and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

Kluger, a 1995 honors graduate of New York University law school, was arrested this morning. The New York Times DealBook blog, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.), Reuters, Bloomberg and the New Jersey Star Ledger have stories.

Kluger left his last law firm, Wilson Sonsini, in March, where he earned $290,000 a year. He is charged along with stock trader Garret Bauer, accused of making trades based on Kluger’s information.

Prosecutors allege a 17-year conspiracy and are using wiretaps to help prove their case. Kluger worked at Cravath from 1994 to 1997, at Skadden from 1998 to 2001, and at Wilson Sonsini from 2005 to March 2011, Bloomberg says.

An FBI agent’s affidavit alleges Kluger and Bauer invested $109 million and reaped $32 million in profits. The scheme allegedly began while Kluger was a summer associate at Cravath. Bauer withdrew cash from ATMs to pay Kluger and an unnamed co-conspirator, the affidavit says.

Kluger is accused of trading on information regarding companies that include Sun Microsystems Inc., 3Com Corp., McAfee Inc. and Acxiom Corp., according to Bloomberg and Reuters. He is also accused of attempting to obstruct the insider trading investigation by destroying a computer, iPhone and prepaid cell phone.

“Early in the scheme, Kluger disclosed information relating to deals on which he personally worked,” the affidavit (posted by the New York Times) says. “As the scheme developed, and in an effort to avoid law enforcement detection, Kluger was careful to steal and disclose information about deals on which he did not personally work, but which he learned about by searching his law firm’s computer system.”

Kluger viewed document titles on Wilson Sonsini’s computer system but did not open them to avoid creating a digital record, the affidavit says.

The affidavit includes portions of a tapped conversation in which Kluger expresses misgivings about the prepaid cell phone used by the unnamed co-conspirator. “What you have to do with this thing is put it in an offsite location,” he says, according to the transcript. “They have dogs that can sniff, that can sniff for cell phones. They train them for prisons.”

Later Kluger asks the co-conspirator about his or her lawyer, according to the transcript. “So, what, he’s telling you is that you should flip, right? That’s what, that’s what I mean all these guys do—that’s all they ever do. … Unless you get one that used to work for the mob or something. It’s whoever—he’s going to tell you whoever makes the first deal makes the best deal and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

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