California Insider Trading Charges Filed by SEC Against Ex-Investment Fund Associate Accused of Making 3000% Profit on Marvel Call Options in Disney Acquisition

The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed insider trading charges against Toby G. Scammell, who is accused of making more than $192,000 from insider trading information he received from his girlfriend about Walt Disney Company’s impending acquisition of Marvel Entertainment. Scammell, a 26-year-old ex-investment fund associate, made a more than 3000% profit in less than a month after he bought highly speculative Marvel call options for under $5500 and then sold them after the announcement of the acquisition was made on August 31, 2009 and Marvel’s stock price went up by more than 25%.

According to the SEC, Scammell’s girlfriend, who worked on the Marvel deal as an extern with Disney, found out confidential information about the deal, including when it would be announced and that Disney would pay $50/Marvel share. The Commission, however, doesn’t believe that Scammell’s girlfriend ever intended to give him insider tips or that she knew what he was doing with the information. Although the couple would talk about the acquisition as a subject of her business school application, she did not give him specific details. He also allegedly obtained information from confidential documents that he read off her Blackberry and from conversations he overheard regarding Marvel.

Scammell bought Marvel call options at $45 and $50 strike prices even though the highest that Marvel had ever traded at was $41.74. The SEC says that the Marvel options that Scammell bought were scheduled to expire soon after the Disney deal was announced and that in many cases the purchase of options represented 100% of the market. Scammell used his brother’s money to buy most of the Marvel call options. He did not, however, tell him about the alleged insider trading activities. Scammell’s brother had given him authority over his finances before going with the US army to Iraq.

The SEC says that before making the trades, Scammell used his computer to search for the terms “material non-public information,” “insider trading”, and “Rule 10b-5.” The Commission claims that Scammell not only used the insider information to garner an “unfair and illegal” advantage over others in the markets but that he exploited his romantic relationship with his girlfriend. The SEC says that after dating her exclusively for two years, he owed her a fiduciary duty, which he breached. He also allegedly acted with Scienter when he made the trades while having knowledge of the material, nonpublic data. The SEC says that when questioned, Scammell was unable to provide a believable explanation for his Marvell call options purchases.

The SEC is accusing Scammell of violating the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Section 10(b)) and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. It is seeking disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, a permanent injunction, prejudgment interest, and civil penalties.

Read the SEC Complaint (PDF)

SEC Sues 26-Year Old On Charges He Made $200,000 Insider Trading Off Ex-Girlfriend’s Work Project, Business Insider, August 15, 2011

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