Amaya CEO, David Baazov, Accused of Insider Trading6 years ago
PokerStars are rarely out of the news these days, and yet again it’s a negative story, with David Baazov -the CEO of Amaya Inc - being charged with insider trading and various related offences.
The 23 separate charges were filed by the Quebec regulators against 3 companies and 3 individuals, all tied to the $4.9 billion Amaya acquisition of PokerStars and Full Tilt from the Oldford Group late in 2014.
The “very serious charges” carry possible jail sentences of up to 5 years and financial penalties of $5million, according to the AMF spokesman Sylvain Théberge.
‘Autorité des marchés financiers’ (AMF) is the body mandated by the government of Québec to regulate the province's financial markets, and today they are reported to have “executed search warrants and obtained freeze and cease trade orders in regards to 13 other individuals tied to mergers and acquisitions involving Amaya.”
Baazov has responded with a statement denying any wrongdoing.
While I am deeply disappointed with the AMF's decision,” he said, “I am highly confident I will be found innocent of all these charges. I have always been proud of my reputation for personal integrity and ethical business conduct."
Amaya, whose stock price plunged 18% on the back of this morning’s troublesome news, has also spoken out against the insider trading charges, stating that "Amaya does not anticipate the charges will have any impact on the management or day to day affairs of the operating business."
Dave Gadhia, Lead Director and independent board member of the Canadian-based gambling giants, added: “"David Baazov has the full support of the independent members of the board." The charges ‘involve allegations relating to a former financial advisor to the company and an employee’ according to one Amaya insider.
Meanwhile, Théberge of the AMF stated that the charges are based on a 2-year investigation, which found evidence of
Aiding with trades while in possession of privileged information, influencing or attempting to influence the market price of Amaya, and communicating privileged information,” the investigator emphasising that, “we're talking about insider training."
The Quebec regulator has been looking into Amaya’s acquisition since they took control of the Stars and Full Tilt sites in a 2014 buy-out from the Oldford Group, with an operation involving the RCMP raiding Amaya's offices in Pointe-Claire in December 2014.
Théberge said the companies and individuals charged have 30 days to respond to the charges and file pleas according to cbc.ca.
It is the latest in a string of negative events to surround the poker markets leading provider, which this week has also raised its prices by an average of 4% at the same time as announcing that Full Tilt would be integrated into the PokerStars site.
Recent months have seen other wholesale changes, some of which led to strikes, resignations, and various other responses from players angry at the site’s decision to move away from its traditional player base.
Last month saw Baazov’s announcement that he hoped to buy out fellow shareholders, his offer valuing the company at $2.8billion – something which he claims is still in the pipeline despite today’s charges.
I am still committed to working with my investor group and the Board to consummate a successful transaction," said a statement from Baazov, who holds just short of 20% of shares in the company at the moment.
Amaya's board are currently considering Baazov’s proposition, and have ‘set up a special committee, headed by Gadhia, to review any concrete proposals brought forward, including any alternative offers’ according to the news report from cbc.com today.
Of Baazov’s share-buying plans, another controversial poker-entrepreneur, Alexandre Dreyfus, added his own variation on an age-old business sequitur: ‘No risk, no profit!” ending with the somewhat portentous-sounding (particularly given today’s announcements): “Nice hand David. GG. I hope it’s not your last move!
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