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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Papers Play Catch up on Insider Trading Probe

News summary by MFWire's editors

Even with the arrest of a Deloitte & Touche-linked couple and Massachusetts Attorney General William Galvin opening an investigation into insider trading making headlines Wednesday morning, the meme of the day is a shrug. Neither of those cases is tied to the FBI probe first reported by the Wall Street Journal last week. Indeed, the WSJ has no updates and the rest of the media does not have much to add.

That is not stopping the New York Times from trying to catch up to the story, something the Columbia Journalism Review (the press' own trade pub), takes note of.

Meanwhile, Wall Street's collective brain is "shrugging off" the investigation, Bloomberg News reports.

“I hope for the sake of regulators and law enforcement agencies that they actually have got something, because they’ve created a huge amount of smoke,” the New York Observer quotes a "senior executive at a big bank" as telling its reporter. “And if the fire turns out to be small, it will be kind of embarrassing for them. But right now, the results don’t seem to be breathtaking.”

Another source tells the paper:
He tried to troubleshoot his iPad as he talked. "They hate Steve Cohen. Why? Because he's really rich; he's worth billions; he's got a braggadocio art collection," he said. "If they nail that guy, it's a ticket to a $4 million-a-year white-collar job at Davis Polk. That's what motivates them! It's just a fact."

The reported lack of fear on the street must be distressing to Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, who is reported to be heading the investigation. Last year he told reporters that the Galleon case, which kicked off the latest raids "should serve as a wake-up call for Wall Street.”

Now he is betting his career on the success of the newest investigations, reports FierceFinance.com. The Web site calls Bharara move a "career-maker--or a career-breaker" depending on how well it goes. If he succeeds he could end up like Rudy Giuliani and Andrew Cuomo, "or it could tarnish his reputation."

CNBC's Charles Gasparino sums up the zeitgeist when he writes what he thinks the probe is all about in an opinion column published by the New York Post. "It's like clockwork: The markets implode, average Americans lose money -- and prosecutors go looking to win some headlines," he writes. Gasparino also accuses Bharara of "grandstanding", contending that the "probe will do more for his ambitions than for any 'little guy.'"

* * *

MarketWatch plays a mutual fund angle to the story in trying to track down how a new and broader definition of insider trading could change how mutual fund analysts perform research and use external networks. The reporter ran into a roadblock when only one mutual fund executive would speak to him. That leaves the story relying on Morningstar's Russ Kinnel and Adam Bold, a financial advisor who runs the Mutual Fund Store.

The one executive who did talk was Fred Alger CEO Dan Chung. He tells the news service that his firm currently makes "limited" use of external research, but that it can be a cost saver by "short-cutting the work of developing your own networks.”

Lastly, the probe is also being felt in Europe and Asia. Opalesque translates a Le Temps report that Lombard Odier, Pictet and the Union Bancaire Privée where Swiss banks invested in hedge funds raided last week. And Bloomberg BusinessWeek offers a detailed report on Taiwanese born consultant Don Chu and the fallout of his arrest on Asia. 

Edited by: Sean Hanna, Editor in Chief

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