A work-from-home tip: Don't buy stocks after eavesdropping on your spouse's business calls

FILE - The seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is affixed on a wall at SEC headquarters, June 19, 2015, in Washington. On Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, a Houston man pleaded guilty to securities fraud for trading on inside information from his wife's business conversations while both were working from home. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)·Associated Press Finance· (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

HOUSTON (AP) — A word to the wise: If you overhear your work-from-home spouse talking business, just forget anything you may learn from it. And most definitely do not trade stocks using what authorities will almost certainly view as inside information.

Tyler Loudon, a 42-year-old Houston man, learned this lesson the hard way. He pleaded guilty Thursday to securities fraud for buying and selling stocks based on details gleaned from his wife's business conversations while both were working from home. He made $1.7 million in profits from the deal, but has agreed to forfeit those gains.

Things might have turned out differently had Loudon or his wife decided to work from, well, the office.

Loudon’s wife worked as a mergers and acquisition manager at the London-based oil and gas conglomerate BP. So when Loudon overheard details of a BP plan to acquire a truck stop and travel center company based in Ohio, he smelled profit. He bought more than 46,000 shares of the truck stop company before the merger was announced in February 2023, at which point the stock soared almost 71%, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Loudon then allegedly sold the stock immediately for a gain of $1.76 million. His spouse was unaware of his activity, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.

Loudon will be sentenced on May 17, when he faces up to five years in federal prison and a possible fine of up to $250,000, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. He may also owe a fine in addition to other penalties in order to resolve a separate and still pending civil case brought by the SEC.

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