What is insider trading?

WLP Group

Understanding insider trading and “inside” information

Insider trading is a term you may often hear in news related to the stock market, business, and accounting. But what exactly is it? And where do we draw the line between legal and illegal insider trading?

In the simplest terms, insider trading involves trading (buying or selling) stocks or other securities based on confidential, or ‘inside’, information about the company.

This ‘inside’ information can include anything not yet made public that could impact the company’s stock price – such as upcoming earnings reports, potential mergers, or other significant business developments.

Where is the line drawn?

Now, you might ask – where is the line drawn? The critical aspect that separates legal insider trading from illegal insider trading is the use of non-public, material information.

Company insiders like executives and employees can buy and sell their company’s stocks. That’s perfectly legal and is often part of their compensation package. However, it becomes illegal when these insiders trade based on material information not yet available to the public.

Why is insider trading illegal?

The line is defined by fairness and transparency. In the interest of fair play, everyone investing in the stock market should have equal access to information.

If someone trades based on non-public information, it is seen as having an unfair advantage over other investors, which is illegal.

This is to give public investors a fair chance and to prevent executives from taking advantage of the public through the stock market.

Example of insider trading in Enron

So, how does this relate to the Enron scandal? Well, in the case of Enron, several executives engaged in illegal insider trading. They had information about the company’s true financial health, which was far worse than what was being publicly presented. These executives sold their Enron shares before the company’s financial problems became public knowledge, thus avoiding significant financial losses that other shareholders suffered.

Insider trading is malicious and undermines the fairness & integrity of the public financial markets. Therefore, it’s monitored closely by regulatory bodies like the SEC and the penalties for illegal activities can be severe.

Hopefully, this gives you a clearer picture of what insider trading is and where the line between legal and illegal activities is drawn. Understanding such concepts is essential in a world increasingly influenced by financial markets.