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Many investors in North Carolina and around the country were disappointed when Apple Inc. announced less than spectacular earnings in a July 2015 report and the price of the company's stock fell by 4 percent as a result. A lawsuit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission on Feb. 13 alleges that a former Apple attorney with insider information avoided such a financial setback by selling stock worth $10 million before the contents of the earnings report were made public.

According to the SEC lawsuit, the allegedly illegal stock trade allowed the attorney, who was fired by Apple in September, to avoid a $345,000 loss. Court documents reveal that the attorney provided Apple with legal advice about stock filings and financial reports and was responsible for ensuring that the Cupertino-based company remained in compliance with the nation's securities laws. The lawsuit does not allege that Apple knew about or condoned his behavior.

The attorney also faces criminal charges. Federal prosecutors in New Jersey are pursuing a securities fraud case against him because the financial institutions that were used to carry out the trade are based in the Garden State. He faces up to 20 years in prison and could be fined as much as $5 million if convicted.

Those facing federal white collar crime charges may be wise to consult attorneys with experience in this area as these cases often involve steps, such as investigative grand juries, that state prosecutions do not. Federal charges also tend to carry more severe penalties. When faced with overwhelming evidence, criminal defense attorneys may seek to resolve federal fraud, embezzlement or insider trading cases at the negotiating table to mitigate these penalties.

Source: Market Watch, Former high-ranking Apple lawyer charged by SEC with insider trading, Steve Goldstein, Feb. 13, 2019

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