FBI Investigating Trades Ahead of Heinz Acquisition

4798 The Federal Bureau of Investigation is examining the suspicious trades placed ahead of the $23 billion acquisition of H.J. Heinz, DealBook's Ben Protess reports. The inquiry adds to the cloud hanging over the deal, after the Securities and Exchange Commission took action over the trading last week.
According to a person briefed on the matter, the F.B.I. is looking into a series of well-timed options trades made before Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital Management announced the deal for Heinz, which sent the company's shares soaring on Thursday. The trades involved 2,533 options bought last Wednesday through a Swiss account at Goldman Sachs, according to the S.E.C., which froze the account last week. "The F.B.I. is consulting with the S.E.C. to see if a crime was committed," an F.B.I. spokesman said, adding that the New York office, which was behind the government's recent inside trading crackdown, was handling the discussions.

The government faces challenges in trying to determine whether wrongdoing was committed. In figuring out who was actually involved in the trading, the S.E.C. will have to scrutinize an account that may allow customers to mask their identity, Peter J. Henning writes in the White Collar Watch column. "Penetrating financial secrecy may be impossible without the assistance of the Swiss authorities, or whatever other country from which the trades originated." In addition, "if the account is maintained in a jurisdiction that protects client confidentiality, then the S.E.C. could quickly hit a dead end."

Source: The New York Times | WILLIAM ALDEN
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