US authorities Thursday announced the arrest of five people suspected of providing confidential information on companies, including Apple, as part of a massive insider-trading probe.
James Fleishman, an executive with "expert-networking" firm Primary Global Research, was among four people arrested Thursday for allegedly "conspiring to provide confidential information" to clients, which include hedge funds," a New York based US attorney said.
According to allegations, Fleishman, 41, from Santa Clara, California, promoted his firms "by arranging for clients, including hedge funds, to speak with consultants knowing that consultants would provide confidential information, including inside information, to clients."
Mark Longoria, Walter Shimoon and Manosha Karunatilaka were also arrested for allegedly providing non-public information to Fleishman's company.
According to the charge sheet, Shimoon was employed by Flextronics and in October 2009 provided Fleishman's clients with confidential information on two firms his company worked with, including sales forecasts and new product features for Apple's iPhone.
Apple had also shared with Flextronics information on the iPod as well as "highly secretive project being developed that ultimately resulted in the public product launch of the "iPad" tablet computer," the authorities said.
Longoria allegedly provided information about his employer, microchip maker Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), while Karunatilaka is suspected of also handing nonpublic details about his employer, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company.
A fifth man, Daniel Devore, formerly of Dell, pleaded guilty on December 10, 2010 for providing confidential information about the computer maker and its clients to Primary Global Research, the authorities said.
Primary Global Research gave the four consultants tens of thousands of dollars for their services that reached a total of more than 400,000 dollars.
"The information trafficked by the four 'consultants' went way beyond permissible market research; it was insider information," FBI investigator Janice Fedarcyk said in a statement.
"This wasn't market research. What the defendants did was purchase and sell insider information. Our investigation is most assuredly continuing," she said.
The FBI has raided the offices of three hedge funds last month in connection to the probe into insider-trading involving dozens of high-profile financial firms.
The investigation is thought to be focused on a vast network of dozens of consultants and traders across the financial industry that could reveal a pervasive culture of backroom dealing.