Billionaire Mark Cuban cleared of insider trading, blasts US government

Billionaire Mark Cuban cleared of insider trading, blasts US government
Mark Cuban (C), the billionaire owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, and his attorney Stephen Best (R).

DALLAS - A Texas jury cleared billionaire Mark Cuban on Wednesday of using a private tip to avoid a big loss on his 2004 sale of Internet company shares, in a stinging rebuke for the US government which had accused him of insider trading.

Cuban, 55, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, lashed out at the US government and lead prosecutor Jan Folena after the verdict, saying the government had tried to bully him.

"Jan Folena, who represents the United States of America, stood up there and lied," an angry Cuban told reporters after the nine-member jury read its decision.

"I'm the luckiest guy in the world, and I'm glad I could stand up to them," he said.

Estimated by Forbes magazine to have a net worth of US$2.5 billion (S$3.11 billion), Cuban was accused by the US Securities and Exchange Commission of trading on non-public information when he sold his 600,000 shares in Internet search company Mamma.com - worth US$7.9 million - and avoided a US$750,000 loss.

George Canellos, the co-director of the SEC's enforcement division, said Cuban's comments were inappropriate.

"Mr. Cubans' comments are without merit and uncalled for. Our lawyers acted in the finest traditions of government counsel and entirely appropriately in strongly advocating the position of the government in this matter," he said in a statement.

The SEC brought the civil lawsuit against Cuban in November 2008. A judge dismissed the suit in 2009 but an appeals court revived the case the following year.

Cuban refused to settle and went to trial, even though he said on Wednesday that he had spent more on fees for lawyers than the possible fines for admitting to insider trading. He could have faced up to US$2 million in fines, his lawyers said.

"It's personal. You take all these years of my life, it's personal," Cuban said.

SEC lawyers rushed from the court after the verdict without making extensive comments. The agency later issued a short statement saying it was disappointed by the outcome.

"We respect the jury's decision," SEC spokesman John Nester said in Washington.

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