Disney Employee Charged in Stock Plot
May 27, 2010
“Hi, I have access to Disney’s (DIS) quarterly earnings report before its release on 5/3/10. I am willing to share this information for a fee that we can determine later.”
That was the email message sent to various Wall Street traders from the boyfriend of a Disney employee who was the assistant to the head of corporate communications. Instead of pursuing the offer many of these traders reported the information to the SEC. A sting was set up, the gruesome twosome were offered $20,000 for the information and bam! they were arrested. According to the Wall Street Journal, the employee was in it for the shoes.
I am certain that Disney employs stringent employment screening requirements including a comprehensive criminal background check. And it isn’t being reported that the employee had any prior records. This story just underscores the need for employers to be vigilant in their screening efforts.
Federal authorities alleged Wednesday that a Walt Disney Co. executive assistant and her boyfriend engaged in a ham-handed plot to sell Wall Street traders inside information, first offered in a chirpy missive sent to dozens of investment companies.
“Hi, I have access to Disney’s (DIS) quarterly earnings report before its release on 05/03/10,” the March 5 letter began. “I am willing to share this information for a fee that we can determine later.”
The alleged plan went awry. Instead of taking the bait, “multiple hedge funds reported the illicit scheme,” the Securities and Exchange Commission said in a press release.
In a pair of complaints filed Wednesday, federal authorities said the letter and subsequent emails were sent by Yonni Sebbag, whose girlfriend Bonnie Hoxie was an assistant to Disney’s head of corporate communications.
Disney said in a statement Wednesday that it “has been fully cooperating with this investigation.” Ms. Hoxie was at work as recently as Tuesday, according to people at the company.
A federal judge ordered Mr. Sebbag held as a potential flight risk and released Ms. Hoxie on a $50,000 bond Wednesday. Neither responded to the charges in a bail hearing Wednesday.
The March 5 form letter was sent to 33 investment companies, according to a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan federal court charging the two with conspiracy and wire fraud. Undercover agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation began corresponding with Mr. Sebbag, who used the pseudonym “Jonathan Cyrus” in the email exchanges, according to the complaint.
As the earnings release approached, Mr. Sebbag, 29 years old, and Ms. Hoxie, 33, engaged in an awkward exchange of their own as they waited with growing frustration for the quarterly earnings data to materialize, according to transcripts in both complaints. The exchange at points took on the tone of any couple bickering over mundane issues like bill paying.
“Get things moving with all the powers you have,” Mr. Sebbag urged his girlfriend at one point.
“Thanks for the flattery,” Ms. Hoxie replied. “I wish you could come to work every day with me.”
On the day of the earnings release, Ms. Hoxie sent Mr. Sebbag an email stating “here is the bag that you are going to get for me,” the SEC said in a companion civil complaint filed in New York federal court. It said the email included a link to “a picture of an expensive Stella McCartney designer handbag available for $700 at Neiman Marcus.”