The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged a former Deloitte Tax LLP partner and his wife with repeatedly leaking confidential merger and acquisition information to family members overseas in a multi-million-dollar insider trading scheme.

The SEC alleges that Arnold McClellan and his wife Annabel, who live in San Francisco, provided advance notice of at least seven confidential acquisitions planned by Deloitte's clients to Annabel's sister and brother-in-law in London, including the acquisition of photo provider Getty Images by private equity firm Hellman & Friedman in 2008.

After receiving the illegal tips, the brother-in-law took financial positions in U.S. companies that were targets of acquisitions by Arnold McClellan's clients. His subsequent trades were closely timed with telephone calls between Annabel McClellan and her sister, and with in-person visits with the McClellans. Their insider trading reaped illegal profits of approximately $3 million in U.S. dollars, half of which was to be funneled back to Annabel McClellan.

The U.K. Financial Services Authority has announced charges against the two relatives — James and Miranda Sanders of London. The FSA also charged colleagues of James Sanders whom he tipped with the nonpublic information in the course of his work at his London-based derivatives firm. Sanders's tippees and clients made approximately $20 million by trading on the inside information.

"The McClellans might have thought that they could conceal their illegal scheme by having close relatives make illegal trades offshore. They were wrong," said SEC Division of Enforcement director Robert Khuzami in a statement. "In this day and age, whether it's across oceans or across markets, the SEC and its domestic and foreign law enforcement partners are committed to identifying and prosecuting illegal insider trading."

According to the SEC's complaint, Arnold McClellan had access to highly confidential information while serving as the head of one of Deloitte's regional M&A teams. He provided tax and other advice to Deloitte clients that were considering corporate acquisitions.

The SEC alleges that between 2006 and 2008, James Sanders used the non-public information obtained from the McClellans to purchase derivative financial instruments known as "spread bets" that are pegged to the price of the underlying U.S. stock. The trading started modestly, with James Sanders buying the equivalent of 1,000 shares of stock in a company that Arnold McClellan's client was attempting to acquire. Subsequent deals netted significant trading profits, and eventually James Sanders was taking large positions and passing along information about Arnold McClellan's deals to colleagues and clients at his trading firm, as well as to his father.

Besides the Getty Images acquisition, other confidential impending transactions allegedly revealed by McClellan were the acquisition of Kronos Inc., a Massachusetts-based data collection and payroll software company acquired by Hellman & Friedman in 2007, and aQuantive Inc., a Seattle-based digital advertising and marketing company, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2007.

The SEC's complaint charges Arnold and Annabel McClellan with violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws. The complaint seeks permanent injunctive relief, disgorgement of illicit profits with prejudgment interest, and financial penalties.

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