CNBC's Gasparino: Insider Trading May Be Spreading to Smaller Deals

There is a reason why SEC chairman Chris Cox has been on a jihad of late against possible insider trading.

And it isn't just suspicious options activity around some big deals like Rupert Murdoch's bid for Dow Jones or the TXU offer. Even some smaller deals are lending some credence to those who say that insider trading is much more prevailant than most people realize.

Case in point: some of the trading activity that occurred just before Tuesday's announcement that Fortress Investment Group has purchased Florida East Coast Industries for $3.5 billion, or $84-a-share.

The options trading activity just before the deal was announced was massive, possibly the highest level in the company history. These are call options, which are options to buy the stock, meaning the people who bought the options made out pretty well once the deal was announced.

Making matters even more interesting was a message on the Yahoo message board for Florida East Coast under the heading "buy out" and written by a guy named Jake the Snake. The message, posted Friday, clearly lays out the possibility of the deal, even cites Fortress as a possible buyer.

Neither Florida East Coast nor the SEC would comment on this, though a spokesman for the SEC did say that the heavy options buying will most likely trigger an examination by the the NASD and the NYSE, which provide front line enforcement of securities laws.

All of this could be coincidence, and insider trading is notoriously difficult to prove. But the example does show that with what some might say is alarming frequency, sophisticated market players have an advantage over average investors. Whether that's an illegal advantage, remains to be seen.


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