Ex-analyst at SAC Capital unit admits insider trading

A former analyst at a division of SAC Capital, the hedge fund founded by Steven Cohen, pleaded guilty on Friday to charges of insider trading and agreed to cooperate with U.S. prosecutors in an investigation of what they say was a $62 million scheme.

Technology sector analyst Jon Horvath, at a plea proceeding in federal court in Manhattan, said he had obtained non-public information on earnings of Dell Inc in August 2008 and Nvidia Corp in May 2009 that he then shared with his manager.

Horvath, who worked at Sigma Capital in New York, a unit of SAC Capital, from 2006 to 2011, did not identify the manager by name.

Horvath, 42, told U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan that he obtained Dell and Nvidia secrets from employees of the companies before public announcements of their earnings.

"In each instance I gave the information to the portfolio manager I worked for and we executed trades based on that information," Horvath said.

Federal prosecutors announced the case against Horvath and three others in January. The indictment said they were part of a circle of research analysts at different investment firms who illegally obtained inside information from 2007 to 2009.

The case is one of several in federal prosecutors' biggest crackdown on Wall Street insider trading in a generation. In a probe the FBI dubbed "Operation Perfect Hedge," scores of traders, hedge fund managers, lawyers and consultants have pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial in the past four years.

Reuters reported in January that Horvath's supervisor was Michael Steinberg, a long-time top trader with the SAC hedge fund. Steinberg has not been charged and he has not been identified in court papers in the case.

Steinberg's lawyer, Barry Berke, declined to comment.

A spokesman for SAC Capital said in a statement that until Horvath's guilty plea, "we gave him the benefit of the presumption of innocence."

He said the firm is "disappointed and angered" that Horvath broke the law and SAC's policies forbidding insider trading.

SAC, with $14 billion in assets under management, is known for delivering double-digit returns over decades. Neither Cohen nor the fund has been accused of any wrongdoing. Horvath is the fourth person once associated with Cohen's hedge fund to be implicated or criminally or civilly charged with insider trading.

Horvath pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy and two charges of securities fraud. As part of the plea he signed a cooperation agreement that requires him to provide "truthful information and assistance" to the government, Sullivan said.

The charges carry a maximum possible sentence of 25 years. Sullivan scheduled a tentative sentencing date of March 31, 2013. The judge told Horvath, who lives in San Francisco and is a citizen of Sweden, that he could eventually be deported from the United States because of his crimes.

Horvath's lawyer, Steven Peikin, declined to comment after Friday's plea proceeding.

Horvath had previously pleaded not guilty to the charges and had been scheduled to go on trial on October 29. Two former hedge fund portfolio managers charged in the same case have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial. A fourth defendant pleaded guilty.

The case is US v. Todd Newman et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 12-00121.

(Additional reporting by Matthew Goldstein; Editing by Eddie Evans, Leslie Adler and Prudence Crowther)