SEC Charges Ex-Foley & Lardner Partner With Insider Trading

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By Andrew Ramonas

A former Foley & Lardner LLP partner traded on inside information about Harley-Davidson Inc. and other companies, netting more than $1 million, according to a May 11 SEC complaint ( SEC v. Little , S.D.N.Y., No. 1:17-cv-03536, 5/11/17 ).

Walter “Chet” Little, who was a member of Foley’s real estate practice group in Tampa, Fla., viewed confidential law firm documents about clients that he didn’t personally represent from 2015 to 2016, the Securities and Exchange Commission said. He then traded ahead of at least 11 impending announcements related to Foley’s clients, including Harley, Whiting Petroleum Corp., Hanger Inc., Magnetek Inc., Pentair PLC, Oshkosh Corp. and Douglas Dynamics Inc., according to the agency.

Little often gave tips about his findings to his neighbor, Andrew M. Berke, the commission said. Both men are facing civil and criminal charges in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

“As alleged in our complaint, Little used highly-confidential information about his law firm’s clients to make more than $1 million for himself and his neighbor through illegal insider trading and tipping,” acting SEC Enforcement Director Stephanie Avakian said in a statement.

Florida lawyer Anthony Rickman, who is representing Little, wasn’t immediately available to comment. Caroline Mehta, a Washington-based Zuckerman Spaeder LLP partner representing Berke, declined to comment.

Foley launched an internal investigation into Little’s trading activity when it learned about it in 2016, firm spokesman Daniel Farrell said in an email to Bloomberg BNA. The firm then determined its policies were violated, which led to Little’s departure, he said. Foley also reported its findings to authorities and has cooperated with their investigation, the firm spokesman said.

“We take this matter very seriously, and we have zero tolerance for actions that violate our core values and the trust our clients place in us,” Farrell said in a statement. “We will continue to hold all of our people to the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct.”

Little left Foley in 2016. He subsequently became a partner at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP, which removed Little’s online profile from the firm’s website after the SEC announced the complaint.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Ramonas in Washington at aramonas@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phyllis Diamond at pdiamond@bna.com

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