Jiau Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison for Insider Trading

The first defendant in the federal insider-trading probe into expert-network firms will spend the next four years in prison. The judgment marks a big win in the governments massive crackdown on insider trading.  U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff sentenced Winifred Jiau, a former Primary Global Research LLC consultant, to four years for swapping illegal tips for money and gifts.

Federal sentencing guidelines, which the judge wasnt required to follow, calls for a prison term of eight years and one month to 10 years and one month.

Jiau was convicted in June of securities fraud and conspiring with hedge funds to gain an illegal market advantage. Her trial was the first involving an expert network firm. Jurors deliberated 6 hours before returning a guilty verdict.

Jiau leaked information from insiders at chipmakers Marvell Technology Group Ltd (MRVL) and Nvidia Corp (NVDA) to former SAC Capital Advisors LP analyst Noah Freeman, who pleaded guilty and testified against her, and Samir Barai, a founder of the Barai Capital Management hedge fund.

According to the FBI, on May 23, 2008 and May 28, 2008, Jiau had telephone conversations with two portfolio managers at separate hedge funds, during which she told them about Marvells quarter ending on May 3, 2008.

In August 2008, she gave the same hedge fund managers information on Marvells quarter ending on Aug. 2, 2008. The information included quarterly revenues, gross margins and earnings per share for the company.

Jiau was arrested Dec. 28, 2010 and charged with passing on inside information about tech companies with hedge-fund managers who paid her more than $200,000 in return. She was also given gift certificates to The Cheesecake Factory, iPhones and a dozen Maine lobsters.

In a court filing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Avi Weitzman said it was clear that Jiau used guile and manipulation to steal sensitive corporate information from multiple sources in an effort to line her own pocket.

The insider information Jiau provided on Nvidia and Marvell resulted in million dollar gains for the fund that made trades based on her tip.

The amount of her illegal gain played a significant role during her sentencing.

Unlike some of the other big names in insider trading scandals this year, most notably billionaire hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam, Jiau could not afford bail and has been behind bars in a medium security prison in lower Manhattan since her arrest in 2010.

Rajaratnam posted $100 million bail and is free until sentencing Sept. 27. In May, a jury found him guilty on 14 counts of securities fraud and conspiracy in one of the biggest crackdowns of insider trading in this countrys history.

Jiaus early bid for bail was further put in jeopardy when federal agents said she tried to flee when they came to arrest her and that she hid her Taiwanese passport from them. Jiau has a dual citizenship in the U.S. and Taiwan. She denies charges she was trying to return to the south Asian country.

She was an expert consultant with PGR between September 2006 and December 2008. She was also a contractor for Nvidia, one of the companies she gave tips on.

Her court-appointed lawyer Joanna Hendon took the unusual step of telling jurors that while the information Jiau obtained about companies may have been nonpublic, it was not material.

Much of evidence against Jiau came from hedge fund manager Barai, who was hearing-impaired and often recorded calls with Jiau so he would listen to them afterward.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara described the expert network industry as something verging on a corrupt business model, when he announced the charges in February.