SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - In the latest crackdown on illicit pillow talk, the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday accused a former Oracle Corp. vice president of improperly profiting from his wife's knowledge about two deals engineered by her boss -- Oracle's acquisitive chief executive, Larry Ellison.
Christopher Balkenhol, the former Oracle vice president named in a civil complaint filed in a San Francisco federal court, agreed to pay nearly $199,000 to settle the case without admitting or denying wrongdoing. His attorney didn't immediately return phone messages Monday.
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The SEC alleged Balkenhol, 40, had invested more than $530,000 in two of Oracle's takeover targets during 2005 based on intimate information passed along by his wife, the supervising executive assistant for Ellison as well as the company's co-presidents, Charles Phillips and Safra Catz.
Balkenhol's wife had told him about secret meetings leading up to Oracle's successful bids to buy a pair of rival business software makers -- Retek Inc. and Siebel Systems Inc. Those deals are part of a $25 billion shopping spree that Ellison launched in 2003 with a hostile bid for PeopleSoft Inc.
By snapping up shares of Retek and Siebel before Oracle announced its takeover offers, Balkenhol realized more than $97,000 in profits.
Those gains are being repaid as part of the SEC settlement, which also imposed more than $100,000 in penalties and interest.
The SEC found no evidence that Balkenhol's wife, who wasn't identified in the complaint, knew about her husband's stock-buying binge.
Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger on Monday declined to say whether Balkenhol's wife remains Ellison's assistant. Hellinger also declined to discuss Monday's settlement.
Balkenhol worked at Oracle from 2000 to 2006, according to the SEC's complaint.
Monday's action against Balkenhol is the latest in a recent spurt of insider trading cases involving married couples.
Last week, a former Morgan Stanley analyst and her husband, a former analyst for a hedge fund, were arrested in New York on charges of securities fraud. On the same day, a former Morgan Stanley compliance officer and her husband pleaded guilty in a separate stock scheme.
Meanwhile, a Hong Kong couple faces SEC allegations of stock chicanery after investing $15 million in Dow Jones & Co. stock in the weeks leading up to News Corp.'s $5 billion bid for the publisher of The Wall Street Journal.
"Married couples share confidences all the time," said William Salzmann, an SEC attorney who handled the Balkenhol case. "What we are trying to regulate is what they do with that information in the stock market."
After learning about Oracle's plans to pursue Minneapolis-based Retek in March 2005, Balkenhol poured $85,000 into the company's stock. A week later, Retek's shares soared by nearly 25 percent and Balkenhol immediately sold his holdings for a $15,000 profit.
Later that year, Balkenhol's wife mentioned that Oracle executive Catz had met with Siebel's CEO to discuss a possible deal three months before the sale was announced. Acting on the advance tip, Balkenhol bought more than $448,000 of Siebel stock. He reaped an $82,000 profit in September 2005 when Oracle disclosed its Siebel offer.