Igor Cornelsen — a 64-year-old Brazilian man who lives part time in Boca Raton and is a resident of the Bahamas — agreed to pay $5.1 million to settle insider trading charges filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with trading in securities of Burger King ahead of its acquisition by New York private-equity firm 3G Capital Partners Ltd.
The SEC said Cornelsen, a retired banker and customer of Wells Fargo bank, was tipped off to confidential information about the Burger King deal by his broker Waldyr da Silva Prado Neto, who worked for Wells Fargo in Miami.
“Is the sandwich deal going to happen?’’ Cornelsen asked Prado in one of several emails cited by the SEC.
Prado, 42, a Brazilian with a U.S. work visa, left the United States in September and returned to Brazil when the SEC filed charges against him, the agency said. He was working at Morgan Stanley at the time. Prado’s U.S. assets have been frozen and charges against him are pending, the SEC said.
“Cornelsen shamelessly prodded Prado for details on ‘the sandwich deal’ and Prado happily obliged to satisfy his customer’s appetite for inside information,” Daniel M. Hawke, chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Market Abuse Unit, said in a statement.
Insider trading has become a high-profile priority of the SEC in recent years. In a statement, SEC attorney Sanjay Wadhwa, associate director of the agency’s New York Regional Office, said, “Foreign investors who access the U.S. capital markets must play by the rules and not rig the market in their favor, otherwise they face getting caught by the SEC and paying a hefty price as Cornelsen is here.”
According to the SEC, Cornelsen bought call options through his British Virgin Island holding company, Bainbridge Group, giving him the right to purchase Burger King stock at a certain price.
He netted more than $1.68 million in profit when Burger King’s stock price jumped on the news of the buyout by 3G Capital. Burger King went public again this year.
According to the SEC, Prado “was stealing the information from another Wells Fargo brokerage customer involved in the Burger King deal.” That person isn’t named in the court papers. A Wells Fargo spokeswoman said the bank had no comment on the case.
Cornelsen’s settlement, which is subject to federal court approval in the Southern District of New York, includes forfeiting $1,681,090 in ill-gotten gains and paying a $3,362,180 penalty and $136,621 in interest, the SEC said. Cornelsen neither admitted nor denied the charges in the settlement, the SEC said.
In a statement, Cornelsen’s attorney, James Benjamin of Akin Gump in New York said: “Mr. Cornelsen is an honorable man with a distinguished career. He is pleased to resolve this unfortunate situation.”