U.S. authorities investigating possible insider trading in ketchup maker H.J. Heinz Co are studying a derivatives bet that was routed through London, the New York Times reported, citing two people briefed on the matter.
Industry watchdogs, including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the FBI, are investigating unusual trading activity a day before Berkshire Hathaway and Brazil's 3G Capital agreed to buy Heinz for $23 billion in cash earlier this month.
The SEC has obtained an emergency order to freeze assets in a Goldman Sachs Group Inc Swiss account linked to suspicious trades in call options.
The SEC is now examining a product known as a contract-for-difference, a derivative that allows investors to trade on stock price changes without owning the shares, the New York Times said. Such contracts are not regulated in the United States but are popular in Britain, it said. (http://r.reuters.com/fav36t)
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Wall Street's self-regulator, has also recently referred suspicious stock trades to the SEC, the paper quoted one person as saying.
FINRA and the SEC declined to comment to the New York Times.
Spokespersons at Heinz and FINRA could not be immediately reached by Reuters for comment outside of regular business hours.
(Reporting by Aman Shah in Bangalore; Editing by Richard Pullin)