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Two investors in Trump Media insider trading scheme plead guilty

Two investors connected to an insider trading scheme regarding the merger of Digital World Acquisition Corporation (DWAC) with Trump Media & Technology Group have pled guilty to securities fraud in connection to the scheme.

On Wednesday, brothers Michael Shvartsman and Gerald Shvartsman each pled guilty to one count of securities fraud in New York City.

Their guilty pleas come approximately 10 months after they were arrested and charged with trading in securities of DWAC based on material, non-public information about the merger between DWAC and Trump Media – a media company founded by former president Donald Trump.

Prosecutors say both men made more than $22 million in illegal profits.

Initially, the two brothers pled not guilty to the securities fraud charges and were expected to head to trial later this month but changed their minds.

Gerald Shvartsman walks following a hearing at the Manhattan Federal Court, in New York City, U.S. July 20, 2023. (REUTERS)
Gerald Shvartsman walks following a hearing at the Manhattan Federal Court, in New York City, U.S. July 20, 2023. (REUTERS)

According to federal prosecutors, both men were invited to invest in DWAC and another special purpose acquisition company and then, after signing non-disclosure agreements, were provided confidential information about the shell company.

As a condition of the non-disclosure agreement, they were prohibited from using the confidential information to buy or sell securities on the open market.

After making initial investments into DWAC through the initial public offering process, a third individual who is also indicted and set to go to trial, Bruce Garelick, was given a seat on the board of directors and provided the brothers with valuable non-public information about the planned merger.

Prosecutors say Michael and Gerald Shvartsman bought millions of dollars of DWAC Securities before news of the merger was made public and passed along information to friends, neighbours and employees.

After DWAC’s merger with Trump Media was made public in October 2021, the stock and warrant holdings significantly increased in value. The defendants and the individuals they tipped then sold their DWAC securities for a significant profit.

No other person, including anyone from Trump Media, was charged with wrongdoing other than Mr Garelick and Michael and Gerald Shvartsman

“Michael and Gerald Shvartsman admitted in court that they received confidential, inside information about an upcoming merger between DWAC and Trump Media and used that information to make profitable, but illegal, open-market trades,” US Attorney Damien Williams said in a press release.

“Insider trading is cheating, plain and simple, and today’s convictions should remind anyone who may be tempted to corrupt the integrity of the stock market that it will earn them a ticket to prison.”

Both men are scheduled to be sentenced on 17 July.

Each charge carries a maximum sentencing of 20 years in prison, though they will likely receive much shorter sentences in exchange for their guilty pleas.