Ariad’s safety woes panicked investors – including staffers with insider info: SEC

Two members of the risk management team at Ariad had more on their minds back in 2012-2013 than team goals. According to the SEC, the safety issues that beset the biotech’s leukemia drug Iclusig — since snapped up in a Takeda buyout — also presented a compelling reason to sell company stock before some of the latest information became public, hammering the share price.

For Maureen Curran, Ariad’s former senior director of pharmacovigilance and risk management, the moment of truth arrived in December 2012 with word of a safety warning the FDA wanted on the label. Susan Dubuc, who worked as an associate director in the same office, followed up in the fall of 2013, alerting relatives who held Ariad shares that the agency was forcing a halt in clinical trials.

None of it, though, amounted to much. For Curran, the insider trading saved her $9,420 in losses, the SEC claims. For Dubuc’s relatives, it was even less — $2,888.10. Now they both have agreed to pay what they saved in these deals, plus interest and penalties.

Harold Altvater, though, worked Ariad stock more diligently, according to the feds. Using insider info from his wife, an employee at the company, he was able to play several tips in trading company shares. Keying in on the safety crisis at Ariad, he made or saved $102,026.30, according to an SEC charge, in late 2013 and early 2014. He also tipped off a friend, who the SEC says made profited to the tune of $4,188.

Curran and Dubuc consented to the agreement without admitting or denying the allegations, according to the charges. The SEC is going after Altvater.

There’s been a steady trickle of these SEC insider trading cases in biotech over the last few years as investigators keep an eye on stock transactions that occur ahead of the latest catalysts. In biotech, stock prices can gyrate in an instant, making them ripe for abuse. And that includes employees — or their relatives — with only a few thousand dollars on the line.

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