Insider Trading Charges & Penalties by State

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Insider trading refers to the trading of stocks or securities by people who have access to information that is not open to the public. By taking advantage of privileged access to this information, you are considered to be breaching your fiduciary duty.

You also can be convicted of insider trading if you tip friends off about non-public information. If you receive a tip from a friend, you have the same duty as the insider – which is to not make trades using that information. But if you did not know that the information was privileged, a successful prosecution is unlikely.

Insider trading is considered a serious federal offense in most cases. The underlying theory is that it is unfair to investors who do not have the benefit of the same insider information. This type of fraud is different from other types of investment fraud. That is, it does not target an individual investor as a victim. Instead, the worker or individual is able to act upon secret information that is unavailable to other investors. This gives that person an unfair advantage and the chance to reap a windfall of profits.

The SEC both investigates and prosecutes insider trading and various other types of securities fraud. It does so with many different federal statutes and regulations.

Federal laws define an insider as a director or officer of a publicly traded company, and also beneficial owners of in excess of 10% of any part of the stock of a company. Corporate officers and directors have a fiduciary duty to the shareholders of the company. Using inside information to enrich one’s self breaches the duty. People who can access insider information, including someone who gets a tip from a director or officer, is considered an insider as well. He could be subject to prosecution for insider trading.

Employees of a company that is publicly traded can trade securities of their own company, even though they have access to inside information. However, they must meet the reporting requirements that have been established by the SEC.

Insider Trading Laws

Congress recently voted to eliminate a key requirement in insider trading laws for the majority of federal employees. It passed legislation that exempted such workers from a new rule that would mandate online posting of certain financial transactions. This has caused some controversy in Washington DC, but some said the changes were needed to avoid serious security risks to federal employees who would have to reveal personal information. The law is known as the STOCK Act. It was signed into law by President Obama in 2013.

The US government has to prove that the defendant bought or sold a security on the basis of nonpublic information about the security. Prosecutors also have to show that the defendant received information and that the information was nonpublic and material. It also must be shown that the information influenced the trade. A defendant can make a defense that he was part of a binding contract that was entered in good faith, to buy or sell some amount of the security, and that this agreement was in place before he knew of the information.

In recent years, the SEC and federal courts have been expanding the meaning of insider trading. It can now include trading by a regular person on the street, if the SEC thinks he got the information from a person who should not have been in possession of the information.

The SEC states that detecting and prosecuting insider trading is one of its most important enforcement priorities. It notes that all investors need to be aware of the danger of trading on a potential insider information tip.

Insider Trading Sentencing Guidelines

The Justice Department and the local US attorneys’ offices that can bring criminal prosecution against those suspected of insider trading. According to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, you can face up to 20 years in prison for every willful act of securities fraud. You also can be fined up to $5 million for each violation.

Only fines, rather than imprisonment will apply if you can demonstrate that you had no knowledge of the rule violated. Corporations can be fined as much as $25 million.

Note that many people who are charged with insider trading also are charged with wire and mail fraud, which also can bring a 20 year prison sentence. Other possible federal charges include racketeering, tax evasion and obstruction of justice.

Prison terms for insider trading are getting longer – the Wall Street Journal reported recently that the median jail term for insider trading in 2011 was 30 months, which is higher than the term of 18 months that was common from 2000-10.

Insider Trading Cases

Some examples of insider trading that have been prosecuted by the Department of Justice and the SEC include:

  • Corporate officers and directors who traded company securities after they found out about confidential developments
  • Friends, family members and business associates who traded such securities on that information
  • Employees in law, banks, brokerages and printing who were provided with the information to provide services
  • Government employees who discover such information because of the agency they work for

One of the most famous cases of insider trading was with Martha Stewart. In 2001, Stewart sold 4000 shares of ImClone Systems stock. A day later the FDA stated that they were denying the company’s application for a new type of cancer drug. The company’s stock dropped by 20% on the news.

The federal government indicted Stewart and her stockholder in 2003 on several counts of securities fraud, and this included insider trading. The government claimed that they had sold the stock based upon an advanced notice of the decision by FDA. They claimed that they had agreed to sell the stock if it went under a certain price. Stewart was convicted by a jury of securities fraud in 2004.

Insider Trading News

Insider Trading Laws By State

Insider trading laws are designed to prevent individuals from trading securities based on non-public, material information, but the laws and penalties vary significantly by each state:

AlabamaHawaiiMassachusettsNew MexicoSouth Dakota
AlaskaIdahoMichiganNew YorkTennessee
ArizonaIllinoisMinnesotaNorth CarolinaTexas
ArkansasIndianaMississippiNorth DakotaUtah
CaliforniaIowaMissouriOhioVermont
ColoradoKansasMontanaOklahomaVirginia
ConnecticutKentuckyNebraskaOregonWashington
DelawareLouisianaNevadaPennsylvaniaWest Virginia
FloridaMaineNew HampshireRhode IslandWisconsin
GeorgiaMarylandNew JerseySouth CarolinaWyoming

Alabama

Under Code of Alabama Section 8-6-17:

  • Insider trading can result in fines up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Alaska

Under Alaska Stat. Section 45.55.920:

  • Insider trading can lead to fines up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Arizona

Under A.R.S. Section 44-1999:

  • Insider trading is a felony with penalties including fines up to $25,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Arkansas

Under Ark. Code Ann. Section 23-42-507:

  • Insider trading violations can result in fines up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

California

Under California Corporations Code Section 25540:

  • Insider trading can lead to fines up to $25,000 and imprisonment for up to three years.

Colorado

Under Colo. Rev. Stat. Section 11-51-603:

  • Insider trading can result in fines up to $1,000,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Connecticut

Under Connecticut General Statutes Section 36b-29:

  • Insider trading violations can lead to fines up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to 10 years.

Delaware

Under Title 6, Section 7323:

  • Insider trading can result in fines up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to three years.

Florida

Under Florida Statutes Section 517.301:

  • Insider trading can lead to fines up to $500,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Georgia

Under Georgia Code Section 10-5-58:

  • Insider trading is a felony with penalties including fines up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to 10 years.

Hawaii

Under Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 485A-509:

  • Insider trading violations can result in fines up to $25,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Idaho

Under Idaho Code Section 30-14-509:

  • Insider trading can lead to fines up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to three years.

Illinois

Under Illinois Compiled Statutes 815 ILCS 5/12:

  • Insider trading is a felony with penalties including fines up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to three years.

Indiana

Under Indiana Code Section 23-19-5-8:

  • Insider trading violations can result in fines up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Iowa

Under Iowa Code Section 502.509:

  • Insider trading can lead to fines up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Kansas

Under Kansas Statutes Section 17-12a508:

  • Insider trading is a felony with penalties including fines up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Kentucky

Under Kentucky Revised Statutes Section 292.320:

  • Insider trading violations can lead to fines up to $5,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Louisiana

Under Louisiana Revised Statutes Section 51:712:

  • Insider trading can result in fines up to $5,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Maine

Under Maine Revised Statutes Title 32, Section 16509:

  • Insider trading can lead to fines up to $5,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Maryland

Under Maryland Code Section 11-804:

  • Insider trading violations can result in fines up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to three years.

Massachusetts

Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 110A, Section 410:

  • Insider trading can lead to fines up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to three years.

Michigan

Under Michigan Compiled Laws Section 451.2509:

  • Insider trading is a felony with penalties including fines up to $25,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Minnesota

Under Minnesota Statutes Section 80A.76:

  • Insider trading can result in fines up to $25,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Mississippi

Under Mississippi Code Section 75-71-509:

  • Insider trading violations can lead to fines up to $25,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Missouri

Under Missouri Revised Statutes Section 409.5-509:

  • Insider trading is a felony with penalties including fines up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Montana

Under Montana Code Annotated Section 30-10-306:

  • Insider trading can result in fines up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Nebraska

Under Nebraska Revised Statutes Section 8-1108.01:

  • Insider trading violations can lead to fines up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Nevada

Under Nevada Revised Statutes Section 90.670:

  • Insider trading can result in fines up to $25,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

New Hampshire

Under New Hampshire Revised Statutes Section 421-B:5-509:

  • Insider trading is a felony with penalties including fines up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

New Jersey

Under New Jersey Statutes Section 49:3-70.1:

  • Insider trading violations can lead to fines up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

New Mexico

Under New Mexico Statutes Section 58-13C-509:

  • Insider trading can result in fines up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

New York

Under New York General Business Law Section 352-c:

  • Insider trading violations can lead to fines up to $100,000 and imprisonment for up to four years.

North Carolina

Under North Carolina General Statutes Section 78A-57:

  • Insider trading is a felony with penalties including fines up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

North Dakota

Under North Dakota Century Code Section 10-04-17.1:

  • Insider trading can result in fines up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Ohio

Under Ohio Revised Code Section 1707.45:

  • Insider trading violations can lead to fines up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Oklahoma

Under Oklahoma Statutes Section 71-508:

  • Insider trading is a felony with penalties including fines up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Oregon

Under Oregon Revised Statutes Section 59.991:

  • Insider trading can result in fines up to $100,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Pennsylvania

Under Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Section 5508:

  • Insider trading violations can lead to fines up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Rhode Island

Under Rhode Island General Laws Section 7-11-605:

  • Insider trading can result in fines up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

South Carolina

Under South Carolina Code Section 35-1-508:

  • Insider trading violations can lead to fines up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

South Dakota

Under South Dakota Codified Laws Section 47-31B-509:

  • Insider trading can result in fines up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Tennessee

Under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 48-1-112:

  • Insider trading violations can lead to fines up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Texas

Under Texas Penal Code Section 32.21:

  • Insider trading can result in fines up to $250,000 and imprisonment for up to 10 years.

Utah

Under Utah Code Section 61-1-21:

  • Insider trading can result in fines up to $100,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Vermont

Under Vermont Statutes Title 9, Section 5604:

  • Insider trading violations can lead to fines up to $100,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Virginia

Under Virginia Code Section 13.1-522:

  • Insider trading can result in fines up to $100,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Washington

Under Revised Code of Washington Section 21.20.400:

  • Insider trading can lead to fines up to $100,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

West Virginia

Under West Virginia Code Section 32-4-410:

  • Insider trading violations can lead to fines up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Wisconsin

Under Wisconsin Statutes Section 551.509:

  • Insider trading can result in fines up to $100,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Wyoming

Under Wyoming Statutes Section 17-4-106:

  • Insider trading violations can lead to fines up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.