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S.E.C. v. STEPHENSON

United States District Court, Southern District of New York


March 13, 1990

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ANN STEPHENSON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sprizzo, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On September 26, 1989, the Court granted summary judgment to the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") ordering Sentra Securities Corporation ("Sentra") to disgorge the profits of unlawful trades made by Sentra on behalf of two customers, Frederick and Richard Strasburg. See Securities & Exchange Comm'n v. Stephenson, 720 F. Supp. 370 (S.D.N.Y. 1989). The following discussion assumes familiarity with the facts stated in that opinion. Presently before the Court is the SEC's request for prejudgment interest on the disgorged funds. For the reasons stated herein, the Court finds that the award of prejudgment interest is appropriate.

DISCUSSION

Both parties agree that the Court has the equitable discretion to award prejudgment interest. See Manufacturers Hanover v. Drysdale, 801 F.2d 13 (2d Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 1066, 107 S.Ct. 952, 93 L.Ed.2d 1001 (1987); Rolf v. Blyth, 637 F.2d 77 (2d Cir. 1980). Although the award is generally compensatory in nature, i.e., designed to make whole a plaintiff deprived of the use of monies, the Court may also award interest in response to considerations of fairness, see Blau v. Lehman, 368 U.S. 403, 414, 82 S.Ct. 451, 457, 7 L.Ed.2d 403 (1962); Rolf, supra, 637 F.2d at 87, such as whether the defendant has had the benefit of access to the funds prior to judgment. Cf. Drysdale, supra, 801 F.2d at 29.

The Court finds that the considerations of fairness and equity in this case weigh heavily in favor of awarding prejudgment interest. Since August 1986, Sentra has possessed the profits of trades made on behalf of the Strasbergs who have admitted that the trades were made on inside information. Parties trading on inside information are liable for prejudgment interest. See Securities & Exchange Comm'n v. Tome, 638 F. Supp. 638 (S.D.N Y 1986), aff'd, 833 F.2d 1086 (2d Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 486 U.S. 1014, 108 S.Ct. 1751, 100 L.Ed.2d 213 (1988). Moreover, as the Strasburgs' agent, Sentra had no colorable claim to ownership of the funds and should be in no better position than its principal. In fact, the Court found that Sentra's retention of the funds amounted to a windfall and that the remedy of equitable disgorgement was appropriate to deprive Sentra of this unjust enrichment. See 720 F. Supp. at 373; see also Securities & Exchange Comm'n v. Tome, 833 F.2d 1086, 1096 (2d Cir. 1987) (primary purpose of disgorgement is to prevent unjust enrichment), cert. denied, 486 U.S. 1014, 108 S.Ct. 1751, 100 L.Ed.2d 213 (1988). Therefore, the Court finds that awarding prejudgment interest in this case is consistent with the purposes of equitable disgorgement. See Tome, supra, 638 F. Supp. at 640 (awarding prejudgment interest in disgorgement action).*fn1

The Court further finds that the policies of equitable disgorgement are sufficiently served by calculating the interest from the date which Sentra first had the benefit of access to the funds, i.e., when Sentra transferred the funds to its own account on August 28, 1986.*fn2

Accordingly, prejudgment interest of 9%*fn3 per annum shall be calculated on the sum of $185,308.11*fn4 from August 28, 1986.

It is SO ORDERED.


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