Prison for Nasdaq chief who admitted insider trading

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A FORMER Nasdaq stock exchange executive in the United States was sentenced yesterday to three and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to making hundreds of thousands of dollars through insider trading.

Donald Johnson, 57, was director and later managing director of Nasdaq's market intelligence desk before retiring in September 2009. Last May he admitted in court making $641,000 (393,000) on eight separate insider trades between 2006 and his retirement.

"What I did was stupid," Johnson told the court in Virginia, adding that his "guilt and remorse had taken a toll". His lawyer said that other trades wiped out much of the money he got from trading on confidential information.

Johnson also wrote a four-page letter to the court, both expressing regret for his crime and highlighting his charitable work. Before joining Nasdaq, he served as a nurse in the US army and more recently undertook relief work in Haiti.

The court had heard the defendant was responsible for monitoring the stocks of companies traded on the Nasdaq as well as giving the companies information and analyses about trading in their stocks. As a result, Johnson received advance information about companies' earnings announcements, news releases and personnel changes.

Securities regulators said there was a ninth illegal trade that brought the total ill-gotten gains to more than $755,000.

Johnson's biggest single gain was in late 2007 when he made more than $175,000 from buying United Therapeutics shares after learning early that a trial for its hypertension drug Tyvaso was successful.

Judge Anthony Trenga sentenced Johnson to serve 42 months in prison followed by one year of supervised release.

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