FSA fines headhunter £15,000 for market abuse

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The Independent Online

The financial Services Authority yesterday handed down a £15,000 fine to Peter Bracken, the former head of communications for the recruitment consultants Whitehead Mann, after finding him guilty of insider dealing earlier this year.

The financial Services Authority yesterday handed down a £15,000 fine to Peter Bracken, the former head of communications for the recruitment consultants Whitehead Mann, after finding him guilty of insider dealing earlier this year.

Mr Bracken had initially appealed against the fine, first issued by the FSA in April, intending to challenge the ruling at the Financial Services & Markets Tribunal. However, the appeal was dropped last Friday, leaving the regulator clear to issue its final notice yesterday.

The charges against Mr Bracken related to four trades in the shares of his employer in September and November 2002. In the first incident, Mr Bracken called his broker to short-sell 5,000 shares in the company, worth £9,500, after receiving advance warning that it was to issue a profits warning.

After a statement was made by the group the following morning, the shares fell sharply. Mr Bracken then sold out of his position the same evening, making a profit of £2,430.

Two months later, Mr Bracken short-sold the stock again, ahead of the company's interim results, and the announcement that its chief executive was to step down. The shares once again fell, with Mr Bracken selling out of his position at a £393 profit at the end of November.

After news of the insider dealing came to light, in January 2003, Mr Bracken was sacked from Whitehead Mann. The FSA said that the trades also fell foul of Whitehead Mann's internal rules.

The case is only the second enforcement action in relation to the FSA's market abuse rules. The other case, in February, involved the company secretary of Profile Media Group, Robert Middlemiss, who also received a £15,000 fine.

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