By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) -A former Wall Street quantitative analyst was charged on Thursday with insider trading for making nearly 2,900 trades after learning his employer would soon make the same trades for clients, known as front-running.
The U.S. Department of Justice said Sergei Polevikov, 48, of Port Washington, New York, generated more than $8.5 million of illegal profit from trades he conducted from January 2014 to October 2019 through his wife's brokerage account.
Polevikov worked for OppenheimerFunds during the alleged front-running, according to a public records search.
Prosecutors said his trades were designed to take advantage of small stock price movements he expected to occur that day once his employer filled large client orders.
In a related civil complaint, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said 2,858 of Polevikov's 2,874 overlapping trades were in the same direction as his employer's.
Polevikov was charged with securities fraud, wire fraud and investment company fraud.
Bail was set at $1.5 million at his initial appearance in Manhattan federal court on Thursday afternoon. Polevikov was arrested on Wednesday night. The securities fraud and wire fraud counts each carry maximum 20-year prison terms.
Polevikov "violated not just the terms of his employment but also the law when he exploited material, nonpublic information to make personal trades ahead of large institutional trades," U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss in Manhattan said in a statement.
A lawyer for Polevikov did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to his LinkedIn page, Polevikov left OppenheimerFunds in October 2019, five months after it was acquired by Invesco Ltd from MassMutual.
He is now chief executive of WellAI, a Wyoming-based health and technology company he co-founded last year.
Invesco said it cooperated with the government's probe and would provide any additional assistance the government requests. WellAI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Peter Cooney)