Frontline's expose on insider trading is must-see TV. Apple makes a cameo appearance.
Among the highlights in the full show:
- Video deposition of Steven Cohen — the self-described hedge fund king — claiming ignorance of the SEC rules about trading on material, non-public information. His firm, SAC Capital Advisors, paid $1.2 billion in November to settle criminal charges.
- FBI wiretaps of Winnie Jiau, a “high-maintenance” expert consultant with extensive connections in Asian high tech, passing to an SAC trader all kinds of non-public information (“So, for Q1 for Marvell, revenue is $842 million”) and demanding payment up front. (“Cooks need more sugar,” she’s quoted as saying. “I’m going to need more sugar than this.”)
- The punch line of Turney Duff’s story of how he made half a million dollars in 30 seconds by fielding a whispered phone tip (“Jeffries is going to upgrade Amazon in six minutes” — click) meant for Raj Rajaratnam, the Galleon Group‘s legendary founder, now serving an 11-year sentence. Duff’s line: “If I got this call every day, I’d be a great trader, too.’”
Apple AAPL makes a cameo appearance around the 13:30 mark. Fox Business Network’s Charlie (“Blood on the Street”) Gasparino is explaining to Frontline’s Martin Smith that hedge funds, because they trade so frequently, get special treatment on Wall Street.
Gasparino: Banks, because you give them so much trading commissions, tell you about market information before the rest of the world. That’s considered legal.
Smith: How in the hell is that legal?
Gasparino: You know, markets are based on rumors all the time. Where do you draw the line between misappropriating, getting someone to tell me what Apple’s earnings are, or “my sources in the market are saying Apple’s going to knock it out of the park.” You know what I’m saying? It’s a market. People talk.
Smith, by the way, is everything a tough-minded business reporter should be. The bloviators on cable TV could learn a thing or two.