The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced insider trading charges against a San Francisco-based information technology specialist who allegedly hacked senior executives at online travel company Expedia and illegally traded on company secrets.
The SEC alleges that Jonathan Ly, who worked in Expedia’s corporate IT services department, illegally traded in advance of nine company news announcements from 2013 to 2016 and generated nearly $350,000 in profits. According to the SEC’s complaint, Ly exploited administrative access privileges designated for IT personnel to remotely hack into computers and email accounts of senior executives and review confidential documents and pre-earnings reports. Ly particularly targeted information prepared by Expedia’s head of investor relations summarizing Expedia’s yet-to-be-announced earnings and describing how the market could react to particular announcements. Ly allegedly used this nonpublic information to make highly profitable trades in Expedia securities ahead of the announcements.
“Ly allegedly exploited his role as an IT professional by stealing passwords and posing as other users in order to access Expedia’s confidential information,” said Jina L. Choi, Director of the SEC’s San Francisco Regional Office. “Ly’s alleged insider trading scheme continued even after he left Expedia when he secretly kept a company laptop and connected remotely to Expedia’s network to steal confidential information.”
In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington announced criminal charges against Ly.
To settle the charges in the SEC’s complaint, which was filed in federal court in Seattle, Ly agreed to pay disgorgement of $348,515.72 plus interest of $27,391.30 for a total of $375,907.02. The settlement is subject to court approval.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by John P. Mogg and supervised by Jennifer J. Lee of the San Francisco office with assistance from John Rymas of the Enforcement Division’s Market Abuse Unit. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and Options Regulatory Surveillance Authority.