Former Penn National Software Engineer Charged with Insider Trading

Posted on: June 13, 2022, 02:18h. 

Last updated on: June 16, 2022, 04:08h.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) today said it’s charging an ex-Penn National Gaming (NASDAQ:PENN) employee with insider trading. The charge stems from the casino operator’s $2 billion purchase of Score Media and Gaming.

Penn insider trading
The Securities and Exchange Commission headquarters in Washington, DC. The commission is charging a former Penn National worker with insider trading. (Image: New York Times)

In a complaint filed in federal district court in Philadelphia, the SEC alleges David Roda, a former software engineer at Penn’s Penn Interactive Ventures (PIV) unit, purchased call options on Score Media before his employer announced the acquisition to the public.

In breach of his duties, Roda purchased 500 out-of-the-money call options on Score Media in the weeks and days leading up to the announcement of the acquisition,” said the SEC.

The commission asserts that as a PIV staffer, Roda obtained privileged information about Penn potentially acquiring Score Media “with admonitions not to trade on that information.”

In an effort to capitalize on the approval of single-game wagering in Canada and to bring gaming technology in-house, Penn announced the $2 billion cash and stock takeover of Score Media in August 2021. Before that, the regional casino giant owned 4.7% of the Canadian media and gaming outfit.

Roda Made Bank, Tipped Friend

Options are leveraged instruments, and calls — the bullish contracts — typically surged on mergers and acquisitions news, producing rapid, short-term gains for buyers who held the contracts before the news hit the wires.

The SEC claims that in addition to his purchase of 500 call options on Score Media, Roda tipped off a friend — Andrew Larkin — who purchased 375 shares of the Canadian company before Penn publicly announced the takeover.

“According to the SEC’s complaint, Score Media’s stock price increased nearly 80 percent after Penn National and Score Media publicly announced their deal, following which Roda and Larkin sold their holdings for unlawful profits of $560,762 and $5,602, respectively,” notes the commission.

Both Philadelphia, Roda and Larkin are charged with violating the antifraud provisions in US securities laws. Separately, the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania today unveiled criminal charges against Roda.

“Without admitting or denying the allegations in the SEC’s complaint, Larkin has agreed to be permanently enjoined from violating the antifraud provisions of the securities laws and to pay more than $11,000 in disgorgement and penalties,” adds the SEC.

A court must approve that settlement.

Insider Trading Popping Up Across Gaming Industry

The Larkin’s and Roda’s flap controversy isn’t the first recent encounter of the gaming industry with insider trading.

IAC/InterActiveCorp (NASDAQ:IAC) Chairman Barry Diller, whose company is the largest non-institutional shareholder in MGM Resorts International (NYSE:MGM), is under federal investigation stemming from options trades on Activision before Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) announced the acquiring the Call of Duty publisher for $68.7 billion.

However, Diller was recently cleared for limited licensing by Nevada regulators.

Speaking of MGM, that company said in May it’s offering $607 million for Sweden’s LeoVegas. Last week, Sweden’s Economic Crime Authority (SEC) said it’s looking into possible insider trading in the gaming company’s shares before the MGM announcement becomes public.