Did you hear the one about the Vegas gambler, the Pro golfer, and the Wall Street insider? Straight off the pages of some Hollywood script, the Wall Street Journal reports that Federal investigators are pursuing a major insider-trading probe involving finance, gambling and sports, examining the trading of investor Carl Icahn, golfer Phil Mickelson and Las Vegas bettor William "Billy" Walters. All three men have denied any investigations or "no comment"-ed about "well timed" stock trades in Clorox in 2011 - around the time Icahn made a $10.2bn bid for the company. Mr. Walters and Mr. Mickelson, 43, play golf together; and rather comedically, Mr. Icahn said he didn't know who Mr. Mickelson was...?
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Securities and Exchange Commission are examining whether Mr. Mickelson and Mr. Walters traded illicitly on nonpublic information from Mr. Icahn about his investments in public companies, people briefed on the probe said.
Investigators are examining whether over the past three years Mr. Icahn tipped Mr. Walters—famous in Las Vegas for his sports-betting acumen—about potentially market-moving investments by Mr. Icahn's company.
The FBI and SEC are examining whether Mr. Walters on at least one occasion passed a tip on to Mr. Mickelson, these people said, and are studying the two men's trading patterns.
The denials were quick to come...
"We do not know of any investigation," Mr. Icahn said on Friday. "We are always very careful to observe all legal requirements in all of our activities." The suggestion that he was involved in improper trading, he said, was "inflammatory and speculative."
"Phil is not the target of any investigation. Period," said a lawyer for Mr. Mickelson,
When asked to comment about the investigation, Mr. Walters, reached by phone on Friday, said, "I don't have any comment about anything," and then hung up.
They kinda sorta know each other... kinda...
Mr. Icahn met Mr. Walters, 67, through a mutual acquaintance when Mr. Icahn's company owned the Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas. Mr. Icahn bought the Stratosphere in 1998 and sold it along with several other properties for $1.2 billion in 2008.
The two struck up a friendship. Mr. Icahn was once an avid poker player and enjoys betting on football games. The two have spoken about stocks.
Mr. Walters and Mr. Mickelson, 43, play golf together, said people familiar with their relationship. Sometimes Mr. Walters has suggested stocks for Mr. Mickelson to consider buying, one of the people said.
Mr. Mickelson, who has one of the most loyal followings of top professional golfers, has won the prestigious Masters three times.
Mr. Icahn said he didn't know who Mr. Mickelson was.
It seems the trades in question are focused on Clorox in 2011... (and also Dean Foods)
The government investigation began three years ago after Mr. Icahn accumulated a 9.1% stake in Clorox in February 2011, said the people briefed on the probe. On July 15, 2011, he made a $10.2 billion offer for Clorox that caused the stock to jump.
Well-timed trading around the time of his bid caught the attention of investigators, who began digging into the suspicious trading in Clorox stock, the people familiar with the probe said.
The investigators expanded their probe to look at trading patterns by Mr. Walters and Mr. Mickelson relating to Dean Foods Co. , said the people briefed on the probe. The FBI, following its approach to Mr. Mickelson on Thursday, expressed an interest in his trading in Dean Foods, a person familiar with the situation said.
We are sure somewhere Bill Ackman is laughing his ass off...
Cue CNBC defense... and Icahn's twitter feed seems awkwardly quiet on the matter