Illegal insider trading refers generally to buying or selling a security, in breach of a fiduciary duty or other relationship of trust and confidence, on the basis of material, nonpublic information about the security. Insider trading violations may also include "tipping" such information, securities trading by the person "tipped," and securities trading by those who misappropriate such information.

Examples of insider trading cases that have been brought by the SEC are cases against:

  • Corporate officers, directors, and employees who traded the corporation's securities after learning of significant, confidential corporate developments;
  • Friends, business associates, family members, and other "tippees" of such officers, directors, and employees, who traded the securities after receiving such information;
  • Employees of law, banking, brokerage and printing firms who traded based on information they obtained in connection with providing services to the corporation whose securities they traded;
  • Government employees who traded based on confidential information they learned because of their employment with the government;
  • Political intelligence consultants who may tip or trade based on material, nonpublic information they obtain from government employees; and
  • Other persons who misappropriated, and took advantage of, confidential information from their employers, family, friends, and others.

Because insider trading undermines investor confidence in the fairness and integrity of the securities markets, the SEC has treated the detection and prosecution of insider trading violations as one of its enforcement priorities. 

To search litigation releases issued by the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, click here.