John Kerry Heinz Deal: SEC Freezes Bank Account in Zurich Suspected in Insider Trading


On Friday, U.S. regulators obtained an emergency court order allowing them to freeze access to a Swiss bank account suspected of transferring funds obtained via insider trading prior to the announcement of Heinz’s buyout by Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital.

The court order was requested less than 40 hours after the announcement of the $23 billion acquisition by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The account belongs to Zurich-based traders who may have earned as much as $1.7 million for "highly suspicious options trading activity."

Heinz’s stock skyrocketed on Thursday following the announcement of the deal, rising nearly 20% from $60.8 to the takeover price of $72.50. The value of traded call options from a specific Swiss account, however, climbed by about 1,700% at the time the deal was announced.

Sanjay Wadhwa, an SEC regulator from New York, said that the court will enforce any decision to ensure the traders appear in court to explain the deal, which took place the day before the acquisition. He added that any investigation would be complicated by the international nature of the case.

The traders weren’t the only big winners in the deal – recently confirmed Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to net hundreds of thousands of dollars through his and his wife's investments in the company. While Secretary Kerry has pledged to divest himself from many of his holdings, Heinz was not one of them, likely due to its good performance. However, a recent ethics form did not mention its shares. Kerry is not suspected in any wrongdoing.