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Trimedyne Insider Trading Proves Too Tempting

Photonics Spectra
Jun 2000
Gaynell Terrell

IRVINE, Calif. -- The events of one day in March 1996 proved just too tempting for two individuals. They would be accused of parlaying their insider knowledge of pending government approval for a medical therapy into more than $100,000 in illicit gains.

Glendale, Calif., attorney Raymond G. Kolts paid $60,000 plus interest in April to settle charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission that he participated in insider trading. In 1996, in his capacity as a civil liability attorney for Trimedyne Inc. of Irvine, Kolts learned that the medical laser company would receive Food and Drug Administration approval for a prostate treatment.

"What's unusual about this case is that he's an attorney ... breaching his fiduciary responsibility with a client," said Nick Morgan of the enforcement division of the SEC's Los Angeles office.

Who's minding the store?

The SEC probe also caught former controller Michelle Nguyen, who ironically was responsible for reminding company officers and employee stockholders of federal securities law prohibiting insider trading. Nguyen tipped her brother and sister to the pending windfall, which was expected to boost Trimedyne's share price. The three agreed in January -- without admitting or denying guilt -- to pay nearly $166,000 to settle the SEC charges.

"It was strange that the one who was in charge of that notice didn't take it seriously," said Trimedyne CEO Marvin P. Loeb. The SEC found that Trimedyne officials had no knowledge of Nguyen's activity. Loeb said he hasn't a clue who tipped the agency.

The SEC office has made insider trading in Silicon Valley a priority. Unlike other industries, workers in high-tech companies often receive a significant portion of their compensation in stock. Regulators suspect that the informal environment of publicly traded tech companies makes it easier for workers to gain -- and profit from -- proprietary information.

Valerie Caproni, director of the SEC's regional office, predicts that pending investigations will yield more insider trading charges.

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