Messaging channels are at center of alleged Netflix insider trading scandal
Insider trading charges on Monday against three former Netflix software engineers raise questions about how investors are using encrypted apps and messaging channels to discuss stocks.
The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged five individuals, three of whom are ex-engineers at Netflix, for allegedly using confidential Netflix subscription data to trade stock ahead of the company’s earnings reports while collecting more than $3 million in illegal profits. The SEC accused four of the individuals of using either an encrypted app or a messaging channel called “Rage Against the Market” to discuss insider information.
A Netflix spokeswoman declined to comment.
The allegations revolve around Sung Mo Jun, a 49-year-old ex-engineer who was working at Netflix from 2013 to 2017. During that time, he accessed internal Netflix subscription numbers and passed the information to both his brother, Joon Mo Jun, and friend, Junwoo Chon, who allegedly used it to trade Netflix shares before quarterly earnings results were publicly announced.
Joon Mo Jun and Chon, “on many occasions,” placed identical trades for Netflix options contracts only minutes apart, the SEC states. The three of them discussed trading Netflix shares in an encrypted messaging app “to evade detection,” according to the SEC, and Chon allegedly made cash payments to his friend from the profits, according to the regulator.
After Sung Mo Jun left Netflix in 2017, he continued to get Netflix subscriptions data for two years from his 33-year-old mentee and former colleague, Ayden Lee, according to the SEC.
The SEC detailed one incident before Netflix’s July 2019 earnings report that took place on “Rage Against the Market,” a messaging channel on “a popular business communication platform.” Sung Mo Jun, Joon Jun and Chon were all on the message board, along with Jae Hyeon Bae, one of Sung Jun’s former Netflix colleagues and who was, at the time, still at Netflix.
Joon Jun used the channel to ask Bae of his opinion of Netflix’s performance. Bae, 42, allegedly responded to Jun that “he should sell Netflix shares,” which was a “violation of his duties to Netflix,” according to the SEC.
The charges come as financial messaging boards surge in popularity with retail investors. Earlier this year, they gained a huge following during the meme stock frenzy that sent shares of unlikely companies like GameStop soaring. It’s unclear how the SEC found out about the Netflix discussion.
Sung Jun, Chon, and Bae could not be immediately reached for comment. Joon Mo Jun did not respond to requests for comment via email and phone. Lee directed Fortune to his attorney, who provided the following statement:
“Ayden is a young engineer who was taken advantage of by an older, more experienced former colleague whom he considered to be a mentor and friend. Ayden never traded on inside information, nor did he receive any “cash kickbacks” or other remuneration from Mr. Jun for the information he provided. Nevertheless, Ayden is taking full responsibility for his actions and looks forward to putting this mistake (which he made having scarcely passed his 30th birthday) behind him and moving forward with his life.”
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