SEC investigating leak that profited healthcare companies

May 2, 2013 at 10:24 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, May 2 (UPI) -- A Washington firm and several people are under investigation over a leak of information officials say could be tied to a surge in trading in healthcare stocks.

Subpoenas were issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission as it increases scrutiny of the so-called "political intelligence" industry, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

In the latest case, Height Securities alerted clients on April 1 the federal government would soon issue regulations that favored private healthcare insurers taking part in a Medicare program.

The alert went out only minutes before the end of the trading day, and the official announcement was issued after trading closed. But the advance notice was enough to cause trading in shares of several major healthcare firms to spike.

The SEC has subpoenaed a Height analyst, as well as healthcare lobbyist Mark Hayes and Hayes law firm, Greenberg Traurig.

The FBI was present at the SEC interview with Hayes.

All the parties have denied any wrongdoing.

Integrity Research Associates, which tracks the U.S. equity research industry, estimates the worldwide market for policy research and political intelligence was worth more than $400 million in revenue in 2011.

Efforts to tie any of that information gathering to possible wrongdoing have stumbled. The Government Accountability Office says political intelligence is often incorporated into a larger, more comprehensive analysis.

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