An NFL linebacker allegedly made $279,000 off of News Corp’s 2014 acquisition of Move Inc., the company that operates realtor.com for the National Association of Realtors. It’s quite the profit – the only problem is that the U.S. Department of Justice is alleging the money was made thanks to an insider trading tip, and charging the pro footballer accordingly.
Mychal Kendricks, a 27-year-old NFL linebacker for the Cleveland Browns – and Super Bowl champion with the Philadelphia Eagles last year – is facing charges of insider trading, along with Damilare Sonoiki, 27, allegedly a former Goldman Sachs employee and current writer for the television show Blackish, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. He could serve 8 to 12 years in jail, according to reports.
“Four years ago, I participated in insider trading, and I deeply regret it,” Kendricks said in a statement. “I invested money with a former friend of mine who I thought I could trust and who I greatly admired. His background as a Harvard graduate and an employee of Goldman Sachs gave me a false sense of confidence.”
Kendricks, in his statement, said he fully didn’t understand all of the details of the illegal trades, but he knew it was wrong.
“I was drawn in by the allure of being more than just a football player,” said Kendricks.
Kendricks purchased $71,000 in shares of Move, in 2014, according to the complaint. He sold after the public merger announcement later that year for $350,000 – a 393 percent increase.
Sonoiki, who was a junior analyst at an unnamed investment banking firm in New York at the time – Kendricks names that firm as Goldman Sachs in his statement – allegedly provided material nonpublic information to Kendricks regarding upcoming mergers involving investment bank clients, according to the complaint.
Kendricks, in total, made approximately $1.2 million off of the information, including approximately $78,000 from Compuware investments, approximately $489,000 from Sapient and approximately $353,000 from Oplink.
“When individuals engage in insider trading – buying and selling securities based on material, non-public information – it undermines faith in our financial markets and harms ordinary investors who do play by the rules,” said U.S. Attorney William McSwain, in a statement. “As alleged, Mr. Sonoiki and Mr. Kendricks cheated the market, cheated other investors, and placed themselves above the law.”
Kendricks and Sonoli allegedly conspired to commit securities fraud from from July 2014 to approximately March 2015, according to the complaint. Each face a maximum possible sentence of 25 years in prison, and more than $5 million in fines.
Move went public in 1999 – it was still known then as Homestore Inc, but multiple executives were busted for inflating the company’s revenues around the time of its initial public offering.
In 2006, Stuart Wolff, its former CEO was to sentenced to 15 years in federal prison and ordered to pay a $5 million fine and restitution to victims of a financial scheme that artificially inflated revenues and nearly collapsed the company. Wolff was CEO and chairman from 1997 to 2002, when the company went public.
Peter Tafeen the company’s former executive vice president of business development during the same time period also pleaded guilty to securities fraud for his participation in a scheme to artificially inflate company revenues.
Trouble continued, in 2014 around the time of the acquisition. Move entered into a memorandum of understanding to settle a lawsuit alleging directors breached their fiduciary duties and sold the company too cheaply.
“Payments made in connection with the settlement, which are subject to court approval, are not expected to be material,” Move said in a regulatory filing, noting that it was not admitted wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
Most recently, in 2018, a former Move employee sued the company, accusing it of defrauding realtor.com’s agent clients by charging them for services they never ordered or received, and of billing their credit cards without authorization.