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California man charged with insider trading in Disney-Marvel deal

August 11, 2011 |  1:51 pm

Marvel's Spider-Man

A California man has been charged with insider trading for using confidential information gleaned from his girlfriend about Walt Disney Co.'s planned acquisition of Marvel Entertainment to reap a $192,000 stock trading windfall, according to a complaint filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Toby G. Scammell allegedly purchased options in Marvel in the weeks prior to the high-profile August 2009 announcement, based on information he obtained while overhearing his girlfriend's conversations regarding the Marvel deal, according to the complaint.

The girlfriend, who worked in Disney's corporate strategy department, received detailed information about the $4-billion purchase -- including the $50-a-share acquisition price, according to the SEC. Scammell reportedly knew his girlfriend's password and had access to her BlackBerry on occasion.

According to the filing, Scammell had never before traded in Marvel securities. But prior to the deal, he allegedly purchased more than $5,400 in options to acquire Marvel stock. His trades were so unusual, the SEC said, that his purchase of the options represented 100% of the market.

After Disney announced it would buy Marvel, the comic book publisher's stock price jumped more than 25%, and Scammell sold his Marvel options for $192,000 -- a 3,000% return in less than a month, the SEC alleges.

"Scammell exploited his romantic relationship for a financial windfall," said Rosalind R. Tyson, director of the SEC's Los Angeles regional office. "His misuse of confidential information gave him an unfair and illegal edge over other traders in the markets."

Scammell's attorney, Miles Ehrlich, could not immediately be reached for comment.

A Disney spokeswoman could not be immediately reached.


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-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

Photo: Spider-Man. Credit: Marvel.