May 25, 2020

SEC Investigating Cyberattacks Used to Find Secret Company Mergers

SEC Investigating Cyberattacks and Insider Trading

According to Reuters, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating hacks of email accounts of associates and executives that reveal information on potential mergers. The hackers use a technique known as phishing where they craft emails that trick recipients into logging into malicious websites to steal their email logins. These hacks pose a threat because fraudsters can easily use the information to engage in insider trading.

The group, known as FIN4, allegedly targeted a list of 60 companies in biotechnology, medical instruments, hospital equipment, and drugs. Fireeye reported these cyberattacks in February 2014 and found that they were performed to “obtain an edge on the stock trading.” This will continue to be a problem as more businesses move over to cloud computing, which could lead to a significant increase in data breaches.

The SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations released a report on observations relating to cybersecurity and best practices by financial market participants. The observations are offered as guidelines for firms considering how to improve their cybersecurity preparedness and response procedures. The intent is to highlight specific examples of cybersecurity and operational resiliency practices and controls that firms are taking to safeguard against threats, and how they respond in the event of a breach. The SEC “encourages organizations to review their practices, policies, and procedures with respect to cybersecurity and operational resiliency.” Cybersecurity and Resiliency Observations report.

New Technology & Whistleblower Tips Root Out Insider Trading

The SEC relies on technological developments to accomplish its enforcement goals, including identifying and pursuing insider trading cases. In FY 2018, the SEC implemented a Consolidated Audit Trail, intended to enhance, centralize, and update the regulatory data infrastructure available to market regulators. Once fully implemented, the Consolidated Audit Trail will give regulators quicker access to all trade and order data, facilitating the detection of illegal trading practices, such as insider trading.

In addition to technology, the SEC has increasingly relied on whistleblower tips to identify and halt insider trading. Whistleblowers have been instrumental to expose fraud and expose insider trading secrets.

SEC Rewards Whistleblowers for Exposing Insider Trading 

Under the SEC Whistleblower Program, whistleblower are eligible to receive a reward if their original information about insider trading leads to a successful enforcement action with total monetary sanctions of more than $1 million. A whistleblower may receive an award of between 10 to 30 percent of the total monetary sanctions collected. If represented by counsel, a whistleblower may submit a tip anonymously to the SEC.

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About this Author

Matthew Stock, CPA, Auditor, Zuckerman Law Firm
Certified Public Accountant

Matthew Stock is the Director of the Whistleblower Rewards Practice at Zuckerman Law. He is an attorney, Certified Public Accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner and former KPMG external auditor. Mr. Stock has audited a broad range of industries, both domestically and internationally, including large public companies and financial institutions. As an auditor, Mr. Stock developed an expertise in financial statement analysis and fraud recognition.

At Zuckerman Law, Mr. Stock leverages his experience as an attorney, CPA, CFE and external auditor to...

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Jason Zuckerman, Whistleblower Litigation Attorney, Washington DC  Law Firm
Principal

Described by the National Law Journal as a “leading whistleblower attorney,” Jason Zuckerman litigates whistleblowe r retaliation, whistleblower rewards, wrongful discharge, and other employment-related claims. His practice focuses on representing senior executives and senior professionals in high-stakes whistleblower retaliation cases, including SOX retaliation claims, and representing whistleblowers before the SEC, CFTC and IRS.

Zuckerman’s broad experience includes practicing employment law at a national law firm and serving as Senior Legal Advisor to the Special Counsel at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the federal agency charged with protecting whistleblowers in the federal government.

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