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Puneet Dikshit, a 40-year-old McKinsey partner, exploited information he gained about his client Goldman Sachs’ pending takeover to buy profitable call options in GreenSky, according to a complaint unsealed Wednesday in federal court.
Dikshit, who had a lead role advising Goldman on the deal, dabbled with purchasing small amounts of options in the months ahead of the transaction, authorities alleged. After learning that a deal was imminent, however, Dikshit bought about 2,500 call options in the two days before the Sept. 15 announcement, according to the complaint. He ultimately netted about $450,000 through trades made in accounts at an unnamed commission-free brokerage, the U.S. alleged.
It’s the latest example in which a highly compensated professional allegedly succumbed to the temptation to trade off material non-public information. Former McKinsey CEO Rajat Gupta was convicted of insider trading in 2012 and spent two years in prison. Partners at the consultancy can make more than $1 million in total annual compensation, according to recruiters.
While Dikshit may be the most high-profile person ensnared in the GreenSky episode, it’s likely that others had access to deal information and traded off it, according to people with knowledge of the situation. In September, CNBC was first to report that suspicious trades were made in GreenSky options in the weeks ahead of the deal.
Dikshit faces two counts of securities fraud, each with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, the Department of Justice said Wednesday in a release.
He was fired by his employer, McKinsey said in a statement provided to CNBC. Dikshit’s lawyers at Kramer Levin didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
“We have terminated the employment of a partner for a gross violation of our policies and code of conduct,” McKinsey said in a statement. “We have zero tolerance for the appalling behavior described in the complaint, and we will continue cooperating with the authorities.”
Goldman said it was “deeply disappointed by the insider trading allegations” and is also cooperating with the investigation, a spokesperson said.
Despite being a senior advisor on financial transactions, Dikshit’s browser history on McKinsey computers indicates he had basic questions as he researched his trades, authorities alleged.
On Sept. 14, Dikshit Googled “what happens to options when company is acquired,” according to the complaint.
While Dikshit failed to get preapproval for the GreenSky trades, in late September, after CNBC publicized the suspicious activity, he attempted to get his trades retroactively approved, the complaint detailed.
The final Google search listed in the complaint: In early October, Dikshit ran searches related to the insider trading conviction of Rajat Gupta.
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.
With reporting from CNBC’s Jim Forkin and Dan Mangan.