A former Senior Manager at Microsoft was sentenced today to two years in prison, three years of supervised release for insider trading, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. BRIAN JORGENSON, 32, of Lynnwood, Washington was employed as a Senior Manager in Microsoft’s Treasury Group. JORGENSON pleaded guilty earlier this year admitting that he recruited a former co-worker at an asset management company to make stock trades to help him profit on the movement of Microsoft stock and the stock of related companies. JORGENSON’s codefendant Sean Stokke, 28, of Seattle was sentenced last month to 18 months in prison. At the sentencing hearing today Chief Judge Marsha J. Pechman noted that the financial markets operate on trust. “If we don’t stop the people (who are cheating) that we catch and hold them up as an example, we erode that trust,” Chief Judge Pechman said.
“Motivated by greed, this defendant traded on his employer’s confidential information to line his own pocket,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “Western Washington abounds in publicly traded companies with thousands of insiders who have daily access to market moving information. The sentence in this case should serve as a warning to others who might be tempted to engage in this conduct.”
According to the records in the case, the men profited on three distinct instances of insider information: Microsoft’s investment in Barnes and Noble; Microsoft’s failure to meet earnings estimates in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2013; and Microsoft’s increased first quarter earnings in fiscal 2014. After the successful trades, Stokke provided JORGENSON with envelopes of cash in approximately $10,000 increments to avoid any paper trail.
At the sentencing hearing JORGENSON told the court, “I cheated. I tried to take a shortcut for my own financial gain…. I persuaded myself it was a gray area, when it clearly was black and white.”
Through his employment, JORGENSON became aware in early April 2012 that Microsoft was considering an investment in Barnes and Noble for its digital and college business. Stokke opened an online options account and began accumulating options on Barnes and Noble stock. When Microsoft announced the investment in Barnes and Noble, the Barnes and Noble stock jumped 49%. The men sold the option for a profit of more than $184,000.
In early July 2013, JORGENSON learned through his employment that Microsoft would not meet its earnings estimate. Beginning in mid-July, Stokke bought “put” options on Microsoft stock and the stock of a technology sector fund influenced by Microsoft stock – essentially betting both stocks would go down. When Microsoft announced the lower than expected earnings on July 18, the stock did drop and the “put” options resulted in a profit to the two men of more than $218,000.
In October 2013, because of his employment, JORGENSON learned that Microsoft would announce a 17 percent increase in earnings per share over the prior year. One day before the announcement, Stokke used brokerage accounts controlled by the two men to purchase call options of a technology sector fund that is influenced by the price of Microsoft stock. Following the earnings announcement, Microsoft stock and thus the sector fund went up. The men executed their options and sold the shares for a profit of nearly $13,000.
The case was investigated by the FBI and the SEC. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Katheryn Kim Frierson.