May 9 A former accountant at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday settled parallel criminal and civil charges, after he was caught illegally trading options and lying about it while employed at the agency.
Humphrey, 60, who worked in the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance for 16 years, pleaded guilty to filing false ethics forms in order to hide his trading, the Justice Department said.
“As alleged in our complaint, Humphrey never sought pre-clearance for his prohibited options trades and he filed forms that falsely represented his securities holdings”, said Gerald W. Hodgkins, Associate Director in the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. Humphrey also agreed to be permanently suspended from appearing and practicing before the SEC as an accountant, which includes not participating in the financial reporting or audits of public companies. The settlement is subject to court approval. When he was confronted by agents in the SEC’s inspector general’s office in 2014, the SEC said, he continued to lie about his trading.
Humphrey traded on stock options of companies such as the banking giant Citigroup, which is directly regulated by the SEC, and sports apparel maker Under Armour, the complaint said. For example, in 2013, Humphrey submitted a false Form 450 that failed to report the sale of reportable options in 2012, and in 2014, he submitted a separate Form 450 that failed to report reportable options sales and investments holdings in 2013.
SEC ethics regulations prohibited Humphrey from trading options where “the underlying interest was a security or group of securities and from purchasing or holding securities in entities the SEC directly regulates, such as financial institutions”, according to a Department of Justice statement on the case.
SEC employees are subject to strict rules created to prevent even the appearance that they may use their public office for private gain. He sat for a voluntary interview in May with the inspector general’s office in May 2014 and left the SEC in August. During this period, in order to hide his options trading, Humphrey admitted that he signed and submitted multiple Form 450s that failed to disclose reportable assets, including prohibited options. Among other things, they can not trade in options and are required to disclose their securities holdings and transactions to the agency’s ethics office in annual filings.