The Feds are looking into some suspicious Equifax trades

Raise your hand if you’ve heard this before: There may have been some funny business around the Equifax hack.

In the latest development, the House Financial Services Committee is now looking at some Equifax options trading that took place following the initial discovery of the breach, but before it was disclosed to the public, according to a report from CNBC’s Liz Moyer.

The activity in question occurred on August 21, when a block trade for 2,500 units of an Equifax put contract was made at 1:36 p.m. ET, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The puts represented a wager that the company’s stock price would drop to $US135 by September 15. Equifax closed at $US139.89 the previous trading day, so in order for the trade to be profitable, the stock would have had to drop 3.5%.

That happened on September 8, the first day of trading after the hack became public. The stock dropped 14%, closing at $US123.23. Assuming the trader, or traders, who made the bet on August 21 haven’t yet closed their position and taken profits, their total gain would amount to more than $US10 million.

And if the options market is to be believed, traders think Equifax’s stock has further to fall. As of last week, they were paying the highest premium since October 2014 to protect against a 10% decline in shares over the next six months, relative to wagers on a 10% gain. While it’s come down from those highs, it’s still far above its average over the period.

According to the CNBC report, which cited a source familiar with the investigation, the lawyer for the committee has inquired about how out of the ordinary the size of the trade was, where the options switched hands, and what types of traders would have been active at the time.

The investigation isn’t the first foray into suspicious Equifax trading following the hack. On September 18, Bloomberg reported that the US Justice Department was investigating whether top company officials violated insider-trading laws when they sold Equifax shares before the company disclosed the hack.

The report said that Equifax’s chief financial officer, John Gamble; president of US information solutions, Joseph Loughran; and president of workforce solutions, Rodolfo Ploder, were those under scrutiny. The three senior executives dumped almost $US2 million worth of stock days after the company learned of the breach, Securities and Exchange Commission filings show. An emailed statement from the credit-monitoring agency said the executives “had no knowledge” of the breach beforehand.

As these latest developments show, authorities are still sifting through the wreckage of the hack for signs of wrongdoing. And if the past week has been any indication, there could be more to come.

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