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Insider Trading Law in the United States


After the United States stock market crash of 1929, Congress enacted the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “1934 Act”). The 1934 Act extended federal regulation to trading in securities. The 1934 Act created the SEC as an independent federal agency. Section 16(b) of the 1934 Act addressed issue of insider trading in the United States directly. Section 16(b) prohibits short-swing profits (profits realized in any period less than six months) by corporate insiders in their own corporation's stock, except in very limited circumstance. It applies only to directors or officers of the corporation and those holding greater than 10% of the stock and is designed to prevent insider trading by those most likely to be privy to important corporate information.

On July 30, 2002, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was signed into law. This insider trading law is the most far reaching reforms of American business practices since the time of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Act mandated a number of reforms to enhance corporate responsibility, enhance financial disclosures and combat corporate and accounting fraud, and created the "Public Company Accounting Oversight Board," also known as the PCAOB, to oversee the activities of the auditing profession.



Securities Exchange Act of 1934


Section 16 -- Directors, Officers, and Principal Stockholders


  1. Disclosures required

    1. Directors, officers, and principal stockholders required to file

      Every person who is directly or indirectly the beneficial owner of more than 10 percent of any class of any equity security (other than an exempted security) which is registered pursuant to section 12, or who is a director or an officer of the issuer of such security, shall file the statements required by this subsection with the Commission (and, if such security is registered on a national securities exchange, also with the exchange).

    2. Time of filing

      1. at the time of the registration of such security on a national securities exchange or by the effective date of a registration statement filed pursuant to section 12(g);

      2. within 10 days after he or she becomes such beneficial owner, director, or officer;

      3. if there has been a change in such ownership, or if such person shall have purchased or sold a security-based swap agreement (as defined in section 206(b) of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (15 U.S.C. 78c note)) involving such equity security, before the end of the second business day following the day on which the subject transaction has been executed, or at such other time as the Commission shall establish, by rule, in any case in which the Commission determines that such 2-day period is not feasible.

    3. Contents of statements

      A statement filed--

      1. under subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (2) shall contain a statement of the amount of all equity securities of such issuer of which the filing person is the beneficial owner; and

      2. under subparagraph (C) of such paragraph shall indicate ownership by the filing person at the date of filing, any such changes in such ownership, and such purchases and sales of the security-based swap agreements as have occurred since the most recent such filing under such subparagraph.

    4. Electronic filing and availability

      Beginning not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 [enacted July 30, 2002]--

      1. a statement filed under subparagraph (C) of paragraph (2) shall be filed electronically;

      2. the Commission shall provide each such statement on a publicly accessible Internet site not later than the end of the business day following that filing; and

      3. the issuer (if the issuer maintains a corporate website) shall provide that statement on that corporate website, not later than the end of the business day following that filing.

  2. Profits from purchase and sale of security within six months

    For the purpose of preventing the unfair use of information which may have been obtained by such beneficial owner, director, or officer by reason of his relationship to the issuer, any profit realized by him from any purchase and sale, or any sale and purchase, of any equity security of such issuer (other than an exempted security) or a security-based swap agreement (as defined in section 206B of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act) involving any such equity security within any period of less than six months, unless such security or security- based swap agreement was acquired in good faith in connection with a debt previously contracted, shall inure to and be recoverable by the issuer, irrespective of any intention on the part of such beneficial owner, director, or officer in entering into such transaction of holding the security or security-based swap agreement purchased or of not repurchasing the security or security-based swap agreement sold for a period exceeding six months. Suit to recover such profit may be instituted at law or in equity in any court of competent jurisdiction by the issuer, or by the owner of any security of the issuer in the name and in behalf of the issuer if the issuer shall fail or refuse to bring such suit within sixty days after request or shall fail diligently to prosecute the same thereafter; but no such suit shall be brought more than two years after the date such profit was realized. This subsection shall not be construed to cover any transaction where such beneficial owner was not such both at the time of the purchase and sale, or the sale and purchase, of the security or security based swap agreement (as defined in section 206B of the Gramm-Leach Bliley Act) involved, or any transaction or transactions which the Commission by rules and regulations may exempt as not comprehended within the purpose of this subsection.

  3. Conditions for sale of security by beneficial owner, director, or officer

    It shall be unlawful for any such beneficial owner, director, or officer, directly or indirectly, to sell any equity security of such issuer (other than an exempted security), if the person selling the security or his principal (1) does not own the security sold, or (2) if owning the security, does not deliver it against such sale within twenty days thereafter, or does not within five days after such sale deposit it in the mails or other usual channels of transportation; but no person shall be deemed to have violated this subsection if he proves that notwithstanding the exercise of good faith he was unable to make such delivery or deposit within such time, or that to do so would cause undue inconvenience or expense.

  4. Securities held in investment account, transactions in ordinary course of business, and establishment of primary or secondary market

    The provisions of subsection (b) of this section shall not apply to any purchase and sale, or sale and purchase, and the provisions of subsection (c) of this section shall not apply to any sale, of an equity security not then or theretofore held by him in an investment account, by a dealer in the ordinary course of his business and incident to the establishment or maintenance by him of a primary or secondary market (otherwise than on a national securities exchange or an exchange exempted from registration under section 5) for such security. The Commission may, by such rules and regulations as it deems necessary or appropriate in the public interest, define and prescribe terms and conditions with respect to securities held in an investment account and transactions made in the ordinary course of business and incident to the establishment or maintenance of a primary or secondary market.

  5. Application of section to foreign or domestic arbitrage transactions

    The provisions of this section shall not apply to foreign or domestic arbitrage transactions unless made in contravention of such rules and regulations as the Commission may adopt in order to carry out the purposes of this section.

  6. Treatment of transactions in security futures products

    The provisions of this section shall apply to ownership of and transactions in security futures products.

  7. Limitation

    The authority of the Commission under this section with respect to security- based swap agreements (as defined in section 206B of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act) shall be subject to the restrictions and limitations of section 3A(b).