January 7, 2020 / 7:18 PM / 11 days ago

Former Goldman Sachs investment banker pleads guilty to insider trading

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) investment banker pleaded guilty on Tuesday to insider trading, as part of what U.S. prosecutors have called a wide-ranging international trading ring to generate tens of millions of dollars of illegal profits.

Bryan Cohen, 33, who had been a vice president in Goldman’s consumer retail industry group before his Oct. 18 arrest, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud before U.S. Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman in Manhattan.

He is the first defendant to plead guilty among six charged last October in four separate indictments, including New York businessman Telemaque Lavidas, whose trial began on Monday in Manhattan.

A related 38-count indictment against a Geneva, Switzerland-based trader, Marc Demane Debih, was made public on Monday. His lawyer could not immediately be identified

Prosecutors said Cohen, who worked for Goldman in London and New York, gave a securities trader in Switzerland tips about corporate acquisitions in exchange for cash and other benefits from 2015 to 2017.

They said he tried to conceal his tracks by communicating through prepaid “burner” cellphones, and receiving cash in person and through intermediaries.

Cohen faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan.

In a joint statement, his lawyers Benjamin Brafman and Joshua Kirshner said Cohen has accepted responsibility, and they hoped to show Pauley that Cohen is “a fundamentally decent young man who should be sentenced in a relatively lenient fashion.”

Goldman spokeswoman Nicole Sharp declined to comment on the plea, but said the bank terminated Cohen’s employment last year after his arrest. The bank was not accused of wrongdoing.

Prosecutors said Lavidas, the son of an Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc board member, passed inside information about the biotechnology company to Greek businessman Georgios Nikas, who made millions of dollars on the tips and passed them to another trader.

Other defendants included Benjamin Taylor and Darina Windsor, who prosecutors said were respectively investment bankers at Moelis & Co and Centerview Partners LLC and nicknamed each other as Pops and Popsy, and trader Joseph El-Khouri.

Nikas, Taylor and Windsor live abroad and have been at large. The United States has sought El-Khouri’s extradition from London following his Oct. 21 arrest there.

At least three onetime Goldman employees have been charged in insider trading schemes since May 2018.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Tom Brown

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