Former Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) employee Amit Dagar and his close friend and business partner, Atul Bhiwapurkar, are facing insider trading charges, according to a press release by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The SEC complaint states that Dagar, who was formerly a senior statistical program lead for the drug trial of the Covid-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid, “participated in an insider trading scheme to reap illicit profits from options trading based on inside information.”
Dagar received material, nonpublic information about the trial’s success a day before the official announcement. They allege that after his supervisor informed him through a chat message that the trial had yielded positive results and that a press release was scheduled for the following day, Dagar reportedly purchased short-term, out-of-the-money Pfizer call options, including options expiring the next day. He then allegedly tipped off Bhiwapurkar, who also purchased similar call options.
Following the announcement on November 5, 2021, which Pfizer’s CEO described as a “game-changer” in the global fight against the pandemic, the company’s stock price surged by nearly 11%, marking its largest single-day price increase since 2009.
The SEC claims that their trading activities resulted in illicit profits of approximately $214,395 for Dagar and $60,300 for Bhiwapurkar, representing staggering one-day returns of 2,458% and 791%, respectively. Prior to these trades, Dagar had not used his brokerage account to trade Pfizer options. He also had not traded the company’s stock since 2018.
“As alleged in our complaint, Amit Dagar misused his access to confidential clinical trial results to enrich himself and his friend, Atul Bhiwapurkar,” said Joseph Sansone, Chief of the Market Abuse Unit. “Dagar and Bhiwapurkar allegedly leveraged this information by trading out-of-the-money call options to generate massive one-day returns. Thanks to our surveillance, the defendants must now face the consequences of their greed.”
The SEC’s Market Abuse Unit’s Analysis and Detection Center, which employs data analysis tools to identify suspicious trading patterns, was responsible for initiating the case.
The SEC’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeks injunctive relief, disgorgement with prejudgment interest, and civil penalties for the alleged violations of the antifraud provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Exchange Act Rule 10b-5.
Dagar denies the allegations. Patrick Smith, his attorney, said in a report by CNBC, his client “looks forward to defending himself in court.”
In addition to the SEC charges, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has also announced criminal charges against Dagar and Bhiwapurkar.
Information for this story was found via the SEC, CNBC, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.