A world famous golfer, a mysterious sports gambler, and an American billionaire investor known for saying whatever he wants to say, whenever he wants to say it.
Putting them all together in an insider scandal should be part Wolf of Wall Street, part Ocean’s Eleven, headline gold.
Too bad it isn’t proving to be a great criminal case at all.
At best the whole story seems like a stock geek’s game of telephone gone wrong. On Friday the Wall Street Journal reported that three years ago investor Carl Icahn may have told legendary sports gambler Billy Walters that he was making a play for Clorox. Walters, then, allegedly told Mickelson. According to the SEC and the FBI, both the gambler and the golfer made similar bets on Clorox at the time.
Now that the case is out, though, it seems that the Fed’s can’t use wiretaps to dig up more dirt. That’s an issue going forward, as all three men have denied wrongdoing and the Feds have yet to accuse them of any either.
Over at the New York Post, Charlie Gasparino points out two reasons why we might not see any formal accusations going forward with the evidence the Feds have now.
First, Icahn is an activist investor, and for him the rules of insider trading are murky. It seems the comments Icahn allegedly made to Walters weren’t specific enough to be classified as inside information — they didn’t include a tender offer for Clorox, for example.
Second, Gasparino points out that insider trading is an exchange. Mickelson and Walters would have had to reward Icahn for his comments to fulfil the two-way nature of the crime. Since Icahn is one of the richest men in the world, it’s hard to think Mickelson and Walters could have paid him enough money to make a difference to him.
That is unless Icahn, now 78, plans to retire and work on his handicap. (FYI- retirement sounds like Carl Icahn’s own personal worst nightmare.)
So for now let the speculation fly. You have to wonder who leaked this story to the WSJ and why, no?
All these men definitely have enemies. By Forbes’ calculations Icahn lost $US420 million on Friday. Not a lot of money to him and his empire — but just about as much as he claims to have made on his long Herbalife bet. Enough to notice.
What everyone else is noticing in this rigmarole is that the Feds have dedicated years to this case and haven’t charged anyone. Meanwhile, questions from the financial crisis go unanswered while the crisis’ repercussions are still felt.
Yet this is the file they’re on.