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Millionaire-Turned-Felon Warns of Insider Trading's "Catastrophic Consequences"

Garrett Bauer’s charmed life came crashing down around him when 20 FBI agents descended upon his home the morning of April 6, 2011 and arrested him for perpetrating an insider trading conspiracy totaling $37 million.

businessman under arrestNo shower, no phone call to cancel his date that night. Bauer was carted away and presented before a judge, where he faced a harsh realization: his close friend and co-conspirator (who had already been targeted by the authorities) had been the person who turned Bauer in to the FBI. Denied bail, Bauer was taken to jail. 

“Saying I’m scared understates how I felt at this point; it feels like the scariest place on earth,” said Bauer during a talk via Skype to McCombs students March 27. The event—a sort of virtual scared straight program—was hosted by the Texas Undergraduate Investment Team. Bauer has given his talk to about 100 different college groups from his home in New York.

“I’m really here hoping to prevent you guys from committing the same crime that I did, insider trading, or just really any crime in general,” Bauer said. “There are catastrophic consequences and practically everybody thinks it’s not going to happen to them.” 

He pled guilty last year and is awaiting sentencing on May 1. Prosecutors want the judge to give Bauer between nine and 11 years in prison.

Bauer’s talk focused on how a self-described “typical guy” (albeit one who had millions in the bank and didn’t need the money) could nevertheless end up facing a decade behind bars. Over the course of 17 years, Bauer acted as a “tippee” who received illegal information from a “tipper,” the close friend who would eventually turn him in. That friend was provided with corporate information by a lawyer who worked at a mergers and acquisitions firm. For his part, Bauer described his role as similar to that of a broker, who would purchase stocks on their behalf. 

The information Bauer received ranged from specific to vague—and he didn’t always profit. “Some of these trades I would make money on, and some I would lose money,” he explained. As a day trader regularly dealing with massive amounts of money, Bauer said these illegal trades made up a small percentage of his total trading volume. 

“I figured what I was doing was wrong; I just didn’t know how serious it was. No one ever discussed this stuff on a trading desk,” he said. “When you’re doing this, you don’t necessarily feel like you’re hurting someone. It’s information that’s being passed.”

Bauer offered a novel approach to decreasing white collar crime.

“Literally, if they had show-and-tell at trading desks, showing people that, ‘Here are people in handcuffs, they got caught.’ Have them walk through the office once every six months or something. I think that would scare a lot of people into not committing insider trading or not doing anything illegal, actually.”  

Prison time isn’t Bauer’s only punishment. The government is seizing his money, including his bank and brokerage accounts and his apartment in New York City and a house he purchased for his mother in Florida. He will be banned from associating with a securities firm for life. 

“I used to think that when I got out of prison I could make a fresh start, but it doesn’t even seem like that’s going to be the case,” he said. With the Securities and Exchange Commission asking for $11 million, his wages from any future job post-prison will be garnished. Until he is sentenced, Bauer keeps busy with volunteer work, hoping for leniency from the judge.  

Bauer wants others to understand that normal people do get caught committing insider trading. 

“When I bought a stock, I factored in everything that could possibly happen,” he said. “But the one thing I didn’t factor in, ‘Could I go to prison for this?’ That risk I just didn’t factor in.”  

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