October 24, 2017 / 6:35 PM / a year ago

Mexichem, Aeromexico board members fined in Mexico for insider trading

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s financial regulator has fined board members at Mexican chemicals maker Mexichem and airline Aeromexico among others for insider trading, according to government data, in a rare move against powerful business interests.

In August and September, 15 people were fined as individuals, not as representatives for any company, for insider trading in 2012 and 2013, a database on the website of Mexican banking and securities regulator CNBV showed.

The fines, which totaled 22.3 million pesos ($1.18 million) are an unusual instance of high-level Mexican business people being cited by the regulator.

CNBV has only given out three fines under insider trading laws since the beginning of 2015, the database showed, making this case with 15 fines unusual. Reuters was unable to obtain further details on why this case merited action.

The individuals were fined under a clause in Mexico’s Securities Market Law that prohibits people from ordering or carrying out trades in company shares or debt using price-sensitive privileged information.

CNBV spokeswoman Maria Lanzagorta said the fines were all for the same case involving trading in one company, but declined to provide details or say what the case entailed. She said the cases were administrative, not criminal.

Reuters looked at the data after newspapers El Financiero and Reforma reported the fines.

Among those fined were Ignacio del Valle Ruiz, a board member of industrial company Mexichem, and Rafael Tricio Haro, a board member of Mexican airline Aeromexico. It was not known if they traded in the companies on which they sit as directors, and both companies said they had not been involved in the administrative process.

Neither Del Valle Ruiz nor Tricio Haro responded to requests for comment.

Mexichem (MEXCHEM.MX) said through communications adviser Francisco Galindo that it had not received any information request from the CNBV and therefore had no comment. The company declined to address any questions regarding the fines.

Aeromexico (AEROMEX.MX) said through communications adviser Giovanna Mejía that it was not involved in the CNBV process and had no comment. It also declined to address any questions regarding the fines.

According to Mexichem’s 2016 annual report, Del Valle Ruiz owns 5.81 percent of the shares. He paid a fine to the CNBV of around 4.3 million pesos ($224,000), the data showed.

His brother Antonio, one of the country’s richest and most influential businessmen, is the company’s honorary chairman and was not fined.

Reuters found company filings that showed at least seven of the 15 people that were fined now work or have worked at Mexichem, which also makes plastic pipes.

Those included former chief executive officer, Rafael Davalos Sandoval, who left in 2012.

Davalos Sandoval did not respond to a request for comment.

Maria del Pilar Carmen Dolores Haro Martin, who owned almost 10 percent of Aeromexico in 2016, according to a Department of Transportation filing, received the largest fine, 6 million pesos ($315,756).

Aeromexico would not confirm whether Haro Martin was still a shareholder or whether it had passed questions to Haro Martin. Reuters could not reach her.

Aeromexico’s $22 billion market capitalization would make a near 10 percent stake worth more than $2 billion.

At current valuations, Ignacio del Valle Ruiz’s 5.8 percent stake is worth more than $5 billion. Del Valle is the only one of the 15 who has already paid his fine, the data shows.

The fines are open to appeal, according to the CNBV data.

($1 = 19.0020 Mexican pesos)

Reporting by Christine Murray; Editing by Christian Plumb, Matthew Lewis and Jeffrey Benkoe

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