Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Real-Life “Grand Theft”: Inside Traders Made $250,000 Off of Electronic Arts’ Take-Two Bid

Here’s yet another twist to the long, sad saga of Electronic Arts’ failed bid for Take-Two Interactive: The Securities and Exchange Commission says day traders who were tipped off about EA’s interest in the videogame company ended up making $250,000 on the deal.

Federal prosecutors say they’ve broken up an insider trading ring that scooped up some $4.8 million in illegal gains over a four-year period–some of which came from trades made before EA’s bid for Take-Two became public knowledge. That’d be very lucrative information to have in advance, given that EA was offering a premium of more than 50 percent when it offered to buy the company behind Grand Theft Auto in February.

The quick version (longer summary here): The SEC says that Matthew Devlin, formerly a Lehman Brothers. broker, gained information about secret takeover bids from his wife Nina Devlin, who works for the Brunswick Group, a PR firm that specializes in M&A work. He then passed the tips on to his clients, the SEC alleges.

The SEC hasn’t charged Nina Devlin with anything. In a statement, her employer says she was unaware of what her husband was up to: “This is a violation of trust between husband and wife. Our employee was the victim of a criminal act by her spouse which made detection extremely difficult despite our high standards of confidentiality.”

Electronic Arts’ (ERTS) $2 billion offer for Take-Two (TTWO) was one of 13 deals the trading ring profited on, the SEC says. Unlike most of the other deals, however EA’s proposed purchase never went through. That’s much to the chagrin of ordinary Take-Two investors, who were offered as much as $25.75 per share for stock that’s now trading at less than $9–and just reported dismal results.