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NY Goldman Sachs banker charged with insider trading

New York

A GOLDMAN Sachs Group Inc investment banker has been released on bond and placed on leave by the firm after allegedly being involved in an insider trading scheme.

Bryan Cohen, a vice-president at Goldman Sachs who works in the Consumer Retail industry group, was arrested early on Friday on charges of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. He was also sued by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and accused of improperly using insider information about impending corporate deals.

Cohen, 33, of New York, was arraigned on Friday before a US magistrate judge in Manhattan and released after he posted US$250,000 and ordered to refrain from the "conduct alleged", according to court records. A pre-trial hearing is set for Oct 22.

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A Goldman Sachs spokeswoman said on Saturday that the firm is "cooperating with the authorities on the situation regarding Mr Cohen. Protecting client confidential information is our highest internal priority and we condemn this alleged behaviour".

The SEC complaint also names a Greek citizen, George Nikas, 54, who has homes in New York and Athens and owns a restaurant chain "GRK Fresh" that includes locations in Manhattan. The complaint said the pair participated in a scheme that netted Nikas at least US$2.6 million in illicit profits. Cohen passed on non-public corporate deal information to an unnamed trader who in turn gave it to Nikas who used it to illegally trade securities, the SEC said. Cohen got cash in exchange for giving information.

The trader and Nikas "realised millions of dollars in illicit gains from trading the securities of at least two different public companies - Syngenta AG and Buffalo Wild Wings Inc - in advance of news that these companies had been targeted for acquisition", the SEC said.

The SEC said Nikas profited from buying Syngenta securities in 2015 after first being passed information about Monsanto Co's proposal to acquire it and later about ChemChina's interest. In October 2017, Cohen passed along that Arby's Restaurant Group was interested in acquiring Buffalo Wild Wings, the SEC said, prompting additional trades.

Cohen is the third Goldman Sachs employee to be charged in an insider trading scheme since May 2018. In June, former Goldman Sachs vice-president Woojae Jung was sentenced to three months in prison for engaging in insider trading. Damilare Sonoiki, a Goldman Sachs analyst, was charged in August 2018 with leaking non-public information about pending deals to NFL football player Mychal Kendricks in exchange for cash and tickets to games. Both pleaded guilty in September 2018. REUTERS