A complaint unsealed Wednesday in federal court alleged that Puneet Dikshit, 40, exploited information he gained about his client Goldman Sachs’ pending takeover to buy profitable call options in GreenSky.
Dikshit, who had a lead role advising Goldman on the deal, dabbled with purchasing small amounts of options in the months ahead of the transaction, authorities alleged. After learning that a deal was imminent, however, Dikshit bought about 2,500 call options in the two days before the Sept. 15 announcement, according to the complaint. He ultimately netted about $450,000 through trades made in accounts at an unnamed commission-free brokerage, the U.S. alleged.
It’s the latest example of a highly compensated professional allegedly succumbing to the temptation to trade off material nonpublic information. Former McKinsey CEO Rajat Gupta was convicted of insider trading in 2012 and spent two years in prison. Partners at the consultancy can make more than $1 million in total annual compensation, according to recruiters.
While Dikshit may be the most high-profile person ensnared in the GreenSky episode, it’s likely that others had access to deal information and traded off it, according to people with knowledge of the situation. CNBC was the first to report, in September, that suspicious trades were made in GreenSky options in the weeks ahead of the deal.
Dikshit faces two counts of securities fraud, each with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, the Department of Justice said Wednesday in a release.
McKinsey fired Dikshit from his job, the company said.
“We have terminated the employment of a partner for a gross violation of our policies and code of conduct,” McKinsey said in a statement provided to CNBC. “We have zero tolerance for the appalling behavior described in the complaint, and we will continue cooperating with the authorities.”
Goldman said it was “deeply disappointed by the insider trading allegations” and is also cooperating with the investigation, a spokesperson said.
Dikshit’s lawyers at Kramer Levin didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Despite Dikshit being a senior advisor on financial transactions, his browser history on McKinsey computers indicates he had basic questions as he researched his trades, authorities alleged.
On Sept. 14, according to the complaint, Dikshit Googled “what happens to options when company is acquired.”
The complaint said that Dikshit failed to get preapproval for the GreenSky trades but that in late September, after CNBC publicized the suspicious activity, he attempted to get his trades retroactively approved.
The final Google search listed in the complaint: In early October, Dikshit ran searches related to Gupta’s insider trading conviction.
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.
— CNBC’s Jim Forkin and Dan Mangan contributed to this report.