Federal authorities are examining a series of very well timed trades made by golfer Phil Mickelson and gambler William Walters, and whether legendary investor Carl Icahn may have shared insider information that led to the trades.
According to a report in the New York Times, the trades in question involved Clorox stock. Mickelson and Walters placed very similar Clorox trades right around the time that time Icahn was planning a takeover bid for Clorox. (It ended up failing.)
In 2011, Icahn was beginning his takeover bid for Clorox. His company bought shares en masse and stock rose 6 percent when Icahn revealed his stake in February 2011. His company was their largest investor. Several months later, Icahn offered $76.50 a share to purchase the company. Several days before he sent Clorox the offer letter, fishy trades were spotted.
The FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as federal prosecutors, are trying to determine if Icahn gave his takeover plan information to Walters. There is a possibility that Icahn gave details to Walters, and Walters shared them with Mickelson, leading to the eerily similar trades.
In a statement to Reuters, Icahn said he was unaware of any investigation, but that he has never given out any insider information. He also said that while he does have business relationship with Walters, he does not know Mickelson personally. Mickelson issued a similar statement, saying, he has "done absolutely nothing wrong."
The SEC has been investigating for two years without finding definitive proof of insider trading, and none of the men have been accused of a crime yet. Now, the feds are turning to Icahn for his documents about Clorox. They hope these documents clarify whether or not Walters spoke to Icahn about the takeover bid.
Even if Icahn did give Walters details the takeover, he could have done so legally, without breaking any insider trading regulations. (He may not have even had an insider information to give, other than his own decision to buy the company.) If Icahn revealed details that breached a confidentiality agreement with his investors, however, then it would be illegal.
Of course, they might be all be completely innocent and just very lucky.