Toronto money manager punished for ‘tips’ on Amaya – Pokerstars acquisition

News on 17 Jun 2018

Former co-chief investment officer and portfolio manager of Aston Hill Asset Management Benedict Cheng has reached a settlement with the Ontario Securities Commission over allegations of insider tipping regarding the acquisition of PokerStars by the Amaya online gambling group in 2014.

The settlement calls for a payment by Cheng of a Cdn$ 350,000 penalty and Cdn$ 50,000 in investigation costs, along with a prohibition from trading any securities or derivatives for six years, and a ban on becoming or acting as a director, or officer of any issuer, registrant or investment fund manager for six years.

Cheng has also agreed to co-operate with OSC staff in its ongoing investigation into illegal insider activities in securities of Amaya, including testifying as a witness.

In 2014, Cheng learned about Amaya’s impending acquisition of the parent company of online gambling site PokerStars because funds he managed agreed to participate in the financing for the transaction.

Before the acquisition was publicly announced in June 2014, Cheng informed his Aston Hill subordinate, senior vice president John David Rothstein, and said he could pass on the information to others.

“Mr. Cheng’s involvement in insider tipping was a serious breach of Ontario securities law,” said OSC commissioner Mark Sandler in his oral reasons for the settlement approval. “The improper use of insider information leads to unfair advantages for those who use it and can undermine confidence in the integrity and fairness of public markets.”

Our readers will recall that former Amaya CEO David Baazov walked away from insider trading charges earlier this month when a Quebec court granted him a stay of prosecution due to flaws in the presentation of the case against him by the Quebec securities regulator AMF.

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