Breaking Down Phil Mickelson’s Insider Trading Mixup With the FBI

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Source: Corn Farmer, Flickr

Source: Corn Farmer, Flickr

That up there is Phill Mickelson — the 44-year-old pro golfer who can lay claim to three Masters victories and a whole host of other wins. He’s currently under investigation for insider trading — that is, the unethical use of private knowledge to preemptively sell or buy stocks. It’s what Martha Stewart went to jail for. In Phil’s case, suspicion seems to have been cast on him owing to some ‘well-timed’ Clorox (NYSE:CLX) stock purchases in the summer of 2011. That’s right, Clorox — the bleach. There’s a cheap laundering joke in there somewhere.

What made Mickelson’s buy-in so suspicious was that it came days before Carl Icahn, a billionaire investor, made an announcement that he was planning to take over the company, driving the prices of each stock upwards. The link from Icahn to Mickelson? A gambler named William Walters. Walters and Icahn have been acquaintances since Icahn purchased a Vegas hotel, and Walters occasionally golfs with Mickelson. The idea that information could have moved from one to the other is plausible, especially considering that Mickelson and Walters both snagged Clorox stock within days of each other, and that at least one more unnamed party connected to Walters and the pro golf circuit also bought some stocks at the same time.

For his part, Mickelson told The Wall Street Journal that he “had done absolutely nothing wrong,” and that he was cooperating with the Federal investigation. The case, which has yet to formally charge Mickelson, Icahn, or Walters with insider trading, hinges on the difficult proposition of convincing someone to cooperate.

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