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Ex-Microsofties face 20 years in slammer over insider trading

Former staffers allegedly made nearly $400k using confidential info

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A former Microsoft senior manager is facing up to 20 years in jail and millions in fines and compensation over allegations he shared confidential information about the firm with his friend and business partner.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a complaint alleging Brian Jorgenson had handed off insider information to Sean Stokke three different times, sharing the company's plans with Barnes & Noble's Nook unit as well as quarterly financial data ahead of the information going public.

Jorgenson and Stokke, who also used to work at Microsoft but wasn't with the firm at the time of the alleged securities laws breaches, wanted to start their own investment fund - BioHawks Investment Group. The SEC's civil complaint alleged the pair were going to use earnings from the alleged securities violation for the venture. Jorgenson and Stokke also face a criminal complaint from federal prosecutors.

Jorgenson has been vocal about his guilt with the media, giving interviews to papers like The Seattle Times in which he said he wanted to "man up" and take responsibility.

The former Microsoftie is facing two decades of potential jail time and a maximum $5m fine in a criminal case brought by the FBI as well as the prospect of coming up with the nearly $400,000 he and Stokke allegedly made if the SEC wins the civil case it brought yesterday.

According to the SEC filing (PDF), Jorgenson learned about Microsoft's proposed million-dollar investment in Barnes & Noble's Nook unit at least 12 days before the public announcement in April last year. He then allegedly took the information to Stokke and they allegedly agreed to buy call options in B&N - agreements that give an investor the right to buy a share at a certain price, which becomes profitable if the shares go up. That specific trade, which only cost around $14,000, ended up netting over $182,000.

Altogether, the US Attorney in Seattle charged the pair with 35 counts of insider trading (PDF).

US Attorney Jenny Durkan said in a statement that her office would "vigorously prosecute" any insider trading.

“For every stock market winner, there is a loser, and trading on confidential inside information is a cheater's way of gaining at the expense of others,” she said. “This conduct hurts companies, hurts individuals, and shakes faith in our financial markets. ®

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