An insider is one who has information about a company and makes a trade based on privileged information. This undermines the faith people have in the market and harms investors who do not have access to the same information.
Information is the value of the stock and it is illegal to trade if you have non-public information affecting a stock’s price or value. Insider trading penalizes the general trading public who speculate on trending company information without actual knowledge. For example if you, as an officer of the company, knew that a new product would revolutionize the industry and drive your company’s stock prices up, and you bought up as many shares as you could before the public offering, you would be guilty of insider trading.
Illegal actions come into play when buying or selling a security while in the possession of non-public information or material about the stock or security. This includes trading by those who have a relationship of trust. The SEC has prosecuted insider trading cases against corporate officers, employees and directors who traded the company’ securities after they learned about significant developments. Friends and business associates of these officers and directors have had lawsuits brought against them for information given by those in a position of trust. If you are an employee of a law, banking or brokerage firm who was given company information and you traded on that information, you have just broken the law.
Insider trading destabilizes investor assurance in the integrity and fairness of the securities markets. Agents for the SEC consider discovery and prosecution of insider trading abuses as part of their high enforcement priorities. Investors must be highly conscious of the hazards in trading on tips from employees or officers who know private information about a company. If you are considering trading on inside information, know that this act carries severe civil and criminal penalties. Prison time is an option and fines that might just bankrupt you can be levied.
Insider trading can also be legal. It is legal when corporate officers, directors, shareholders or employees buy and sell stock within their own companies. They do report their trades to the SEC and this information is used to identify companies with high investment potential. The premise: if insiders are buying stock in their own company they must know their company is growing upwards.
You can trade in good confidence using insider tips or information if you can provide proof that the information you received had no bearing on your decision to trade and your trade was made in good faith. However, do be aware that the burden of proof is on your shoulders and could be very difficult to verify. Keep good records of every conversation you have with brokers. Document tips and where they came from and when you received them.
If a regulatory officer contacts your concerning your trades, hire a securities lawyer before you ever speak to regulators. Gather all your records and be ready to justify your insider trades.