U.S. Attorney's Office
Southern District of California
(619) 557-5610
June 9, 2015

San Diego Brokers Plead Guilty in Insider Trading Scheme

SAN DIEGO—Two San Diego-based stockbrokers pleaded guilty in federal court today to engaging in an insider trading conspiracy that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal profits. The defendants, Chad Wiegand and Akis Eracleous, entered their guilty pleas before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler. Wiegand and Eracleous worked as licensed brokers for National Planning Corporation, a brokerage firm.

In a parallel action, the Securities and Exchange Commission today announced the filing of a civil complaint. Please see http://www.sec.gov/news/pressrelease/2015-116.html.

As detailed in the plea agreements, the scheme involved insider trading in shares of Ardea Biosciences, Inc. (“Ardea”). Ardea was a biotechnology company headquartered in San Diego, California. Among other things, Ardea was developing drugs for treatment of hyperuricemia and gout, and for treating malignant tumors. Ardea’s shares of common stock were traded on the NASDAQ Stock Market under the ticker symbol “RDEA.”

On April 23, 2012, Ardea publicly announced that it had entered into a merger agreement in which Ardea would be acquired by AstraZeneca plc (“AstraZeneca”), a multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology company headquartered in London. That day, following the merger announcement, Ardea’s shares closed at $31.62, an increase of 51.7% from the prior day’s closing price.

As part of the scheme, Wiegand obtained inside information about Ardea—including information about the AstraZeneca merger in advance of the public announcement—from his brother-in-law, a corporate insider. The brother-in-law, identified in the charging document as “Co-Conspirator #1,” held a senior position in information technology for Ardea, in which he oversaw Ardea’s entire computer operations infrastructure and had access to information maintained on Ardea’s computer system. After obtaining the inside information, Wiegand traded on it for his brokerage clients, in the process earning fees for himself and profits for his clients.

Wiegand also provided the inside information to Eracleous, his fellow broker. Eracleous in turn traded on that information, and provided it to several others, who profited for themselves and paid profits back to Eracleous.

The defendants’ plea agreements described illegal earnings in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Court documents describe the co-conspirators engaging in a long-running insider trading scheme spanning three years, from March 2009 to April 2012. Prior to the AstraZeneca merger, conspirators engaged in insider trading in advance of two other public announcements by Ardea: (1) an April 28, 2009 announcement that Ardea had entered into a global agreement with Bayer, focusing on a joint program for developing inhibitors for the treatment of tumors; and (2) a December 1, 2009 announcement in which Ardea disclosed positive data from its preliminary clinical trial program for one of its drugs.

U.S. Attorney Duffy stated, “Trading on inside information is unfair, fraudulent, and illegal, and it undermines confidence in our securities markets.”

FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric S. Birnbaum commented, “Trading on inside information negatively impacts individual investors and threatens the public’s confidence in our financial markets. The FBI will continue to aggressively investigate this type of illegal conduct and seek to prosecute those who violate our laws.”

The case is scheduled for sentencing before U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw on September 4, 2015 at 9 a.m.

DEFENDANT Case Number: 15-CR-1462-DMS

  • Chad Wiegand Age: 42 Lakeside, CA
  • Akis Eracleous Age: 48 San Diego, CA

SUMMARY OF CHARGES OF CONVICTION

  • Count 1: Conspiracy to commit securities fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371—maximum penalty of five years in prison, $250,000 fine, term of supervised release of three years, restitution, forfeiture, and $100 special assessment.

INVESTIGATING AGENCIES

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
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