Quebec's securities regulator is investigating a former BCE Inc. employee over allegations of insider trading and tipping involving three deals that spanned her employment at the telecommunications giant.
On Thursday, the Autorité des marches financiers (AMF) alleged that the insider trading scheme involved Renée Morier, a former executive assistant to BCE's president and chief financial officer Siim Vanaselja, and some family members and friends. The AMF alleged the group of seven made profits of more than $1-million between 2012 and 2015.
The AMF alleged that at the time of her employment at BCE, Ms. Morier "communicated privileged information related to the acquisitions of Glentel Inc., Bell Aliant Inc. and Astral Media Inc. to certain family members and friends," who then used that information to trade securities in these companies. Earlier this year, Bell bought wireless communications firm Glentel for $594-million. In November, 2014, it bought and privatized Bell Aliant for $3.95-billion. And back in 2013, it purchased Astral Media for $3.2-billion.
The regulator said that BCE is not a target and that the telecommunications firm is co-operating with the investigation.
BCE deferred comment to the AMF, which could not be reached.
A LinkedIn profile with the name Renée Morier said she worked from November, 2014, until this July as manager of finance at Bell in Montreal. For four years leading up to November, 2014, Ms. Morier worked as an executive assistant to the vice-president and chief financial officer. Previous to her employment at Bell, the profile said she worked at Fiera Capital Corp., Rio Tinto, Rona Inc. and Standard Life.
Six other people and the companies administered by these individuals are also under investigation; Ms. Morier's spouse, Sylvain Milette; her parents, Marie Fenez and Raymond Morier; her friend Francis Beauchamp, an engineer at Montreal-based construction firm Verreault; and his parents, Jeanne Brulé and Alain Beauchamp. All have had search warrants ordered on them.
According to court documents, Ms. Morier, with the help of Mr. Milette, allegedly communicated information about the deals to her parents and her friend, Mr. Beauchamp. Her parents then allegedly acted on the information to buy Bell Aliant shares. Mr. Beauchamp allegedly bought both Bell Aliant and Astral shares and passed that info to his parents, who in turn bought Bell Aliant shares. Ms. Morier, her parents, Mr. Beauchamp and his parents allegedly used the information to buy shares in Glentel. The documents also note that some personal assets have been frozen, including Alain Beauchamp's Harley-Davidson motorbike, which he allegedly bought after selling his shares in Bell Aliant
Stéphanie Lapierre, a Montreal-based securities lawyer at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin, said the AMF has been more active in investigating securities crimes over the past few years as more of them become public. She added that while there is a possible penalty of jail time in the law, it is rare in insider trading cases. Ms. Lapierre said penalties in cases like this can range from a minimum of $5,000 to a maximum of $5-million.
Earlier this week in another insider trading ruling, the Ontario Securities Commission banned former Bay Street Lawyer Mitchell Finkelstein from trading securities for 10 years and to pay fines and penalties.
With a file from reporter Nicolas Van Praet in Montreal.