Indian-American exec pleads guilty to insider trading


New York, March 27

An Indian-American, who was arrested and charged in July 2022, has pleaded guilty to 13 counts arising from his participation in a scheme to commit insider trading based on material, non-public information (MNPI) that he misappropriated from his employer.

Amit Bhardwaj, 49, the former Chief Information Security Officer at Lumentum Holdings Inc, traded on the misappropriated MNPI himself and tipped his associates with this same information so that they could place profitable trades in Lumentum's acquisition targets, a Department of Justice said in a statement.

"Not only did Bhardwaj betray his company and cheat the securities markets, but when confronted by the FBI, he also schemed to conceal his illicit behaviour and obstruct the investigation," US Attorney Damian Williams said.

Bhardwaj, of San Ramon in California, pled guilty to seven counts of securities fraud and two counts of wire fraud -- each of which carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison, and four counts of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud -- each of which carries a maximum term of five years in prison.

According to court documents, Bhardwaj learned that Lumentum was considering acquiring Coherent, Inc in December 2020, after which he purchased Coherent stock and call options, and tipped three associates -- his friend Dhirenkumar Patel, another friend, and one of his close family relatives -- these individuals all traded in Coherent securities as a result.

Patel agreed to pay Bhardwaj 50 per cent of the profits that he earned by trading in Coherent based on the MNPI provided by Bhardwaj. When Coherent's stock price increased substantially following the announcement of the Lumentum acquisition, Bhardwaj, and his accomplices, closed their positions in Coherent securities and collectively profited by nearly $900,000.

In October 2021, Bhardwaj learned that Lumentum was engaged in confidential discussions with Neophotonics Corporation about a potential acquisition. He provided this information to Srinivasa Kakkera, Abbas Saeedi, and Ramesh Chitor, who traded in Neophotonics securities as a result.

Chitor and Bhardwaj agreed to split the profits equally.When Neophotonics' stock price increased substantially following the announcement of the Lumentum acquisition in November 2021, the three closed their positions in Neophotonics securities and made collectively nearly $4.3 million in realised and unrealised profits.

According to the allegations in the indictment and statements made in public court proceedings, Bhardwaj drove to the homes of certain of his co-conspirators to encourage them not to tell the federal authorities the truth about their insider trading scheme, thus obstructing an FBI investigation into their conduct.

Bhardwaj is scheduled to be sentenced by District Judge Gregory H. Woods on July 11, 2023.


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