Former Lumentum Executive Pleads Guilty To Insider Trading

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that AMIT BHARDWAJ, the former Chief Information Security Officer (“CISO”) at Lumentum Holdings Inc. (“Lumentum”), pled guilty to 13 counts arising from his participation in a scheme to commit insider trading based on material, non-public information (“MNPI”) that BHARDWAJ misappropriated from his employer, Lumentum.  BHARDWAJ traded on the misappropriated MNPI himself and tipped his associates with this same information so that they could place profitable trades in Lumentum’s acquisition targets. BHARDWAJ was arrested and charged in July 2022 and pled guilty earlier today before U.S. District Judge Gregory H. Woods.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Amit Bhardwaj, the former Chief Information Security Officer of Lumentum, ironically failed to keep the confidential information he was trusted with secure as he shared it with numerous friends and a family member in order to make a profit.  Not only did Bhardwaj betray his company and cheat the securities markets, but when confronted by the FBI, he also schemed to conceal his illicit behavior and obstruct the investigation.  Today’s guilty plea emphasizes this Office’s commitment to protecting the integrity of the financial markets.”

According to the allegations in the Indictment and statements made in public court proceedings:

In approximately December 2020, BHARDWAJ learned that Lumentum was considering acquiring Coherent, Inc (“Coherent”).  Based on this information, BHARDWAJ himself purchased Coherent stock and call options, and BHARDWAJ tipped three associates –– his friend Dhirenkumar Patel, another friend, and one of BHARDWAJ’s close family relatives ––and these individuals all traded in Coherent securities as a result.  BHARDWAJ and Patel agreed that Patel would pay BHARDWAJ 50% of the profits that Patel earned by trading in Coherent based on the MNPI provided by BHARDWAJ.  When Coherent’s stock price increased substantially following the announcement of the Lumentum acquisition, BHARDWAJ, his close family member, his friend Patel, and another friend closed their positions in Coherent securities and collectively profited by nearly $900,000.

In or about October 2021, BHARDWAJ learned that Lumentum was engaged in confidential discussions with Neophotonics Corporation (“Neophotonics”) about a potential acquisition.  BHARDWAJ provided this information to SRINIVASA KAKKERA, ABBAS SAEEDI, and Ramesh Chitor, and these individuals all traded in Neophotonics securities as a result.  In connection with Chitor’s trading, BHARDWAJ and Chitor agreed that Chitor and BHARDWAJ would split the profits equally.  When Neophotonics’ stock price increased substantially following the announcement of the Lumentum acquisition in November 2021, KAKKERA, SAEEDI, and Chitor closed their positions in Neophotonics securities and made collectively approximately $4.3 million in realized and unrealized profits.

After they were interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) voluntarily and served with federal grand jury subpoenas on approximately March 29, 2022, BHARDWAJ took steps to obstruct the federal investigation of their conduct.  On the day of the March 29, 2022, FBI interviews, BHARDWAJ drove to the homes of certain of his co-conspirators to encourage them not to tell the federal authorities the truth about their insider trading scheme.  BHARDWAJ and his associates subsequently met in person on multiple occasions and discussed, among other things, potential false stories that would conceal their insider trading scheme as well as creating false documents to buttress lies regarding payments that were, in reality, related to the insider trading scheme.

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BHARDWAJ, 49, of San Ramon, California, pled guilty to seven counts of securities fraud and two counts of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison, and four counts of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum term of five years in prison. 

The statutory maximum sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.  BHARDWAJ is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Woods on July 11, 2023, at 10 a.m.

Mr. Williams praised the investigative work of the FBI.  He also acknowledged the assistance of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which separately initiated civil proceedings against BHARDWAJ.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Noah Solowiejczyk and Adam Hobson are in charge of the prosecution.

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