By Peter Loftus
Federal authorities arrested a Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMY) executive Thursday on charges that he used inside information about the drug maker's acquisition targets to make more than $300,000 in illicit profits from stock-option trading.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey charged Robert Ramnarine, the drug maker's assistant treasurer for capital markets, with three counts of insider trading.
Bristol-Myers issued a statement Thursday saying Mr. Ramnarine has been placed on administrative leave effective immediately. "Bristol-Myers Squibb has clear and strict policies prohibiting trading on material non-public information and is cooperating with the government's investigation," the company said.
Mr. Ramnarine, of East Brunswick, N.J., allegedly purchased options in three companies that Bristol was targeting: ZymoGenetics Inc., Pharmasset Inc. and Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc. (AMLN).
Bristol-Myers purchased ZymoGenetics for $829 million in 2010 and agreed in June to acquire Amylin for $5.3 billion. Gilead Sciences Inc. (GILD) acquired Pharmasset for $11 billion earlier this year.
Mr. Ramnarine served as director and executive director of pensions and savings investments at Bristol-Myers from 2008 until July 2012, when he was named to assistant treasurer of capital markets, according to a criminal complaint filed against Mr. Ramnarine in U.S. District Court in New Jersey.
The complaint said Mr. Ramnarine was involved in evaluating potential Bristol-Myers acquisition targets in those roles, and had a duty not to use material, non-public information for his personal benefit.
According to the complaint, Bristol-Myers began negotiating with ZymoGenetics about a deal in May 2010, and announced an agreement in September 2010. Before the public announcement, Mr. Ramnarine purchased ZymoGenetics call options, which he sold after the announcement for a profit of $30,551, according to the complaint.
Bristol-Myers also explored a potential acquisition of Pharmasset in October and November of 2011 before withdrawing from discussions, which cleared the way for Gilead's acquisition, according to the complaint.
Before the November announcement of the Gilead purchase of Pharmasset, Mr. Ramnarine purchased Pharmasset call options that eventually netted him about $225,026 in illicit profits, the complaint said.
According to the complaint, Bristol-Myers made a preliminary offer to acquire Amylin for $25 to $27 per share in May, ultimately agreeing to pay $31 per share in June. Before the public announcement, Mr. Ramnarine purchased Amylin options that resulted in profits of $55,784, according to the complaint.
Mr. Ramnarine is in custody and scheduled to make an initial court appearance in federal court in Newark, N.J., Thursday afternoon.
A call to a phone listing for a Robert Ramnarine of East Brunswick, N.J., wasn't immediately returned.
Write to Peter Loftus at email@example.com
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