Visium's Sanjay Valvani found dead in apparent suicide after insider trading charge

Sanjay Valvani, a portfolio manager at Visium Asset Management who was charged with insider trading last week, was found dead Monday night.

“We mourn the tragic loss of Sanjay, a devoted father, husband, and friend,” Jacob Gottlieb, Visium’s founder, said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time.”

A New York Police Department representative said Valvani was found by his wife and left a suicide note.

Valvani, 44, turned himself in to authorities last week. He was charged with netting about $25 million for an unnamed investment firm using inside information on the pending approval of a generic drug. Valvani had pleaded not guilty.

“This is a horrible tragedy that is difficult to comprehend,”¬†Valvani’s lawyer, Barry Berke, and partner Eric Tirschwell said in a statement. “We hope for the sake of his family and his memory that it will not be forgotten that the charges against him were only unproven accusations and he had always maintained his innocence.”

Visium had placed Valvani on leave earlier this year after it announced that it was under investigation. The hedge fund said on Friday that it would shut down its operations.

Valvani faced numerous charges, according to the complaint:

  • Valvani was accused of committing securities and wire fraud with a former senior Food and Drug Administration official, Gordon Johnston, from about 2005 through 2011.
  • Valvani “unlawfully obtained highly confidential and material nonpublic information from the FDA about the agency’s approval of pending generic drug applications,” according to the US attorney’s statement.
  • Valvani was also charged with passing material nonpublic info to Chris Plaford, a former Visium portfolio manager, who allegedly traded on that info.
  • Johnston and Plaford have pleaded guilty and admitted their participation in the scheme.
  • The complaint said Valvani instructed Johnston, the former FDA official, about the status and approval of a generic drug, and Johnston passed along that info back to Valvani. Valvani was accused of using that info to bet on two pharma companies that were likely to be affected by the inside tip, allegedly netting about $25 million in trading profits. Valvani was also accused of tipping off Plaford on this info.

A representative for the Department of Justice declined to comment on whether Valvani’s death would affect the case.

Dow Jones earlier reported that the death was an apparent suicide.

*An earlier version of this article said that Valvani was found dead Tuesday morning. It has been corrected.

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