By Grant McCool and Basil Katz
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Winifred Jiau, the first consultant for a so-called expert network firm to go to trial on insider trading charges, was convicted on Monday of securities fraud and conspiring with hedge funds to gain an illegal market advantage.
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A Manhattan federal court jury delivered its verdict on the second day of deliberations at the trial in which Jiau was charged with leaking earnings figures she obtained from insiders at chipmakers Marvell Technology Group Ltd and Nvidia Corp in 2008.
Taiwan-born Jiau, 43, lived in Fremont, California, before being arrested last December in a government crackdown on insider trading on Wall Street. A former executive of Primary Global Research, the expert network firm that paid Jiau, is scheduled to go on trial at the end of August.
Jiau chose to plead not guilty and fight the charges while more than a dozen others admitted crimes or agreed to assist the investigations in hopes of a lighter sentence.
One juror, Susan Kohlmeyer, an art teacher from Westchester, New York, told reporters outside the courtroom it was a difficult decision for the panel.
"We really learned about this unfair system to see how a person's life could be changed on a dime, even a person who is not one of the big hedge fund guys," Kohlmeyer said. "I hope that hedge funds will be re-examined. I was full of despair, I lost my appetite for three weeks."
The petite, bespectacled Jiau, a former technology company consultant, sat expressionless as the verdict was read in U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff's courtroom. She sighed heavily and looked downward as the jury filed out.
Jiau, who was denied bail and went on trial on June 1, faces a possible maximum 25 years in prison when she is sentenced on September 21.
Jiau's lawyer, Joanna Hendon, told reporters after the verdict that her client would appeal.
The government's prosecutions of insider trading in recent years have included the convictions in May of once high-flying Galleon Group hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam and on June 13 of three former securities traders in an overlapping insider trading ring.
The 12 jurors at Jiau's trial heard that she was a private technology company consultant paid $208,000 over two years by Primary Global Research (PGR), one of the firms that match business experts with hedge funds looking to better understand various industries.
Prosecutors accused several people linked to firms such as PGR of breaching their fiduciary duties by trafficking in confidential, inside data such as upcoming corporate earnings figures to gain an edge in the market.
Prosecutors said she leaked such tips 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.
The case is USA v Winifred Jiau et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 11-00161.
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel, editing by Dave Zimmerman)