Computer Hacking and Securities Fraud
47 Sec. Reg. & L. Rep. 1985 (October 19, 2015)
7 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2016 Last revised: 13 Jun 2016
Date Written: September 24, 2015
The purpose of this paper is to consider the strength of securities fraud charges asserted against computer hackers who used technical methods to obtain unauthorized access to corporate press releases before they were released to the public and traders who paid for the stolen information and used it to buy and sell securities. On the assumption that the factual allegations in charging documents are true, the defendants engaged in serious misconduct, but did they commit insider trading or securities fraud? The paper uses a leading authority from the Second Circuit to show that an insider trading theory would nearly certainly fail. The general securities fraud charges against the hackers and traders are also weak. The government must prove that the hackers and traders committed a deception and that the deception was “in connection with” the purchase or sale of a security. Based on the allegations, the hackers probably used deception, but the factual basis for the “in connection with” element is novel. The traders bought and sold securities but engaged in no deceit at all.
Keywords: computer hacking, Rule 10b-5, deception requirement, in connection with requirement
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