Washington D.C., Dec. 17, 2019 —
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced insider trading charges against five friends who repeatedly traded on confidential earnings information about a Silicon Valley cloud-computing company, reaping millions of dollars in trading profits.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Janardhan Nellore, a former IT administrator then at Palo Alto Networks Inc., was at the center of the trading ring, using his IT credentials and work contacts to obtain highly confidential information about his employer’s quarterly earnings and financial performance. As alleged in the complaint, until he was terminated earlier this year, Nellore traded Palo Alto Networks securities based on the confidential information or tipped his friends, Sivannarayana Barama, Ganapathi Kunadharaju, Saber Hussain, and Prasad Malempati, who also traded.
The SEC’s complaint alleges that the defendants sought to evade detection, with Nellore insisting that the ring use the code word “baby” in texts and emails to refer to his employer’s stock, and advising they “exit baby,” or “enter few baby.” The complaint also alleges that certain traders kicked back trading profits to Nellore in small cash transactions intended to avoid bank scrutiny and reporting requirements. After the FBI interviewed Nellore about the trading in May, he purchased one-way tickets to India for himself and his family and was arrested at the airport.
“As alleged in our complaint, Nellore and his friends exploited Nellore’s access to valuable earnings information and attempted to hide their misconduct using code words and carefully tailored cash withdrawals,” said Erin E. Schneider, Director of the SEC’s San Francisco Regional Office. “This case highlights our use of enhanced data analysis tools to spot suspicious trading patterns and identify the traders behind them.”
The SEC’s complaint, filed in the Northern District of California, charges Nellore, Barama, Kunadharaju, Hussain, and Malempati with fraud and seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement with prejudgment interest, and penalties.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California today announced criminal charges against Nellore and Barama.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by John P. Mogg, Chrissy Filipp, and Crystal Boodoo of the San Francisco Regional Office, with assistance from John Rymas and Hugh Beck of the Market Abuse Unit and Jan Jindra and Rachita Gullapalli of the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis. The case was supervised by Jennifer J. Lee and Monique C. Winkler of the San Francisco Regional Office. The SEC’s litigation will be led by Susan F. LaMarca, Mr. Mogg, and Ms. Filipp. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.