Former Penn National Employee Charged by USA SEC With Insider Trading

A former software engineer has caught SEC’s eye trading based on the company’s future acquisition plans.

Insider Trading in Face of Acquisition

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced it is charging former director of backend architecture at Penn Interactive Ventures (PIV) David Roda, aged 36, with insider trading. Charges stem from the company’s acquisition of Score Media and Gaming. The takeover was announced in July 2021, for $2 billion in cash and stock. According to the SEC, in the weeks and days leading up to the official announcement, Roda was in breach of his duties by acting upon privileged information not yet available to the public.

The breach in question is Roda’s has purchased of 500 out-of-the-money call options on Score Media, and he is reported to have gone as far as even tipping his friend, Andrew Larkin, who went on to purchase 375 Score Media shares. Larkin is also charged by the SEC. The complaint was filed in the federal district court in Philadelphia.

The SEC Complaint

According to the SEC’s complaint and as noted publicly by the commission, “Score Media’s stock price increased nearly 80 percent after Penn National and Score Media publicly announced their deal,” and afterward Roda and Larkin have sold their recently acquired holdings for “unlawful profits of $560,762 and $5,602, respectively.” Roda is said to have obtained his call options for $20,000, making his “unlawful” profits a more than x20 return.

Roda and Larkin are both from Philadelphia and now share the same charges as well – violating antifraud provisions in US securities laws. As per the SEC’s statement, the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has also separately filed criminal charges against Roda.

Roda is reported to have agreed to be permanently enjoined from violating the antifraud provisions. Additionally, as per the SEC, he has agreed to “pay disgorgement, prejudgment interest, and a civil penalty.” As for Larkin, he has also agreed to the same enjoinment and his penalties are already set – $11,000, while Roda’s are still to be set by the Court later on. All settlements are still pending Court approval.

More Insider Trading News in Gaming Industry

Just over a week ago, on June 7, it was announced that LeoVegas – a Swedish online gaming operator – was under an investigation from the Swedish Economic Crime Authority (SECA) for suspected insider trading as well. The news came in light of another potential acquisition, the $607 million offer coming from US-based MGM Resorts. The board of LeoVegas has made a firm recommendation to all its shareholders to accept the offer, with the acceptance period ending August 2022. In the face of this, LeoVegas has publicly offered it is “fully assisting the authorities” in the ongoing investigation. More details to follow on this dubitable MGM-LeoVegas situation.

On the subject of insider trading allegations and MGM, a piece of more positive news was recently announced, concerning Barry Diller, who is chairman at the largest non-institutional shareholder at MGM Resorts – InterActiveCorp (IAC) with a 14% ownership stake. Diller was accused of alleged insider trading amid Activision’s acquisition by Microsoft back in January. Just days before the deal took place, he, his stepson, and fellow mogul David Geffen were reportedly investing in Activision Blizzard stock, making about $60 million after the deal was made public. Diller stated it was “simply a lucky bet.”

In the end, it seems he was cleared of the allegations since he was granted a limited license to be a board member at MGM by Nevada regulators back in May. The Nevada Gaming Commission approved a limited license for two years to Diller, with commissioners stating that they were “uncomfortable giving Diller an unlimited gaming license while he cooperates with the Securities and Exchange Commission,” signaling that even allegations of such activities are heavily regarded in the gaming industry.

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