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Indian-American executive sentenced to 24 months in jail for insider trading

San Francisco, Dec 12 (IANS) An Indian-origin executive was sentenced to 24 months in prison and ordered to pay nearly a million-dollar fine in the US for misappropriating information about impending corporate transactions.

Amit Bhardwaj, 49, former Chief Information Security Officer at Lumentum Holdings, was sentenced last week by US District Judge Gregory H. Woods for committing insider trading based on material, non-public information (MNPI) that he misappropriated from his employer.

A resident of San Ramon in California, he previously pleaded guilty to 13 counts relating to the insider trading scheme.

“Amit Bhardwaj violated the trust placed in him by his employer by tipping his associates with valuable, non-public information regarding Lumentum’s planned corporate acquisitions,” US Attorney Damian Williams said.

“Today’s sentence should serve as a stark reminder to corporate executives regularly entrusted with confidential business information that if you try to illegally profit from this information, you will pay a stiff price,” Williams added.

According to the allegations in the Indictment and statements made in public court proceedings, around December 2020, Bhardwaj learned that Lumentum was considering acquiring Coherent, Inc.

Based on this information, he purchased Coherent stock and call options, then tipped three associates — his friend Dhirenkumar Patel, another friend, and one of his close family relatives.

As a result, all these individuals traded in Coherent securities.

As per their pact, Patel agreed to pay Bhardwaj 50 per cent of the profits he earned by trading in Coherent based on the MNPI provided by Bhardwaj. When Coherent’s stock price increased substantially following the announcement of the Lumentum acquisition, Bhardwaj, Patel and two others, closed their positions in Coherent securities and collectively profited by nearly $900,000.

In October 2021, Bhardwaj learned that Lumentum was engaged in confidential discussions with Neophotonics Corporation about a potential acquisition. He provided this information to Srinivasa Kakkera, Abbas Saeedi, and Ramesh Chitor, and these individuals all subsequently traded in Neophotonics securities.

In connection with Chitor’s trading, Bhardwaj and Chitor agreed that they would split the profits equally.

When Neophotonics’s stock price increased substantially following the announcement of the Lumentum acquisition in November 2021, Kakkera, Saeedi, and Chitor closed their positions in Neophotonics securities. They collectively made approximately $4.3 million in realised and unrealised profits.

After they were interviewed by the FBI voluntarily and served with federal grand jury subpoenas on March 2022, Bhardwaj took steps to obstruct the federal investigation of their conduct. On the day of the FBI interviews, he drove to the homes of certain of his co-conspirators to encourage them not to tell the federal authorities the truth about their insider trading scheme.

Bhardwaj and his associates subsequently met in person on multiple occasions and discussed, among other things, potential false stories that would conceal their insider trading scheme. They also created false documents to buttress lies regarding payments that were, in reality, related to the insider trading scheme.

In addition to the prison sentence, Bhardwaj was ordered to forfeit $547,286 and pay a fine of $975,000.

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