Ongpin barred from listed firms, fined P174M for insider trading

Chrisee Dela Paz
Ongpin barred from listed firms, fined P174M for insider trading
The Securities and Exchange Commission also orders Roberto Ongpin to resign from all listed companies he is holding positions – which include PhilWeb and Atok Big Wedge

MANILA, Philippines – Local corporate regulators barred businessman Roberto Ongpin from being part of the board of any publicly listed company, and ordered him to pay a total of P174 million for insider trading of Philex Mining Corporation shares back in 2009.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on July 8 issued an en banc ruling ordering the disqualification of Ongpin, a former trade minister of the country, to become part of the board of any Philippine Stock Exchange-listed firm.

It also ordered Ongpin to pay a fine of P174 million, or P1 million each from alleged 174 counts of insider trading. 

This is in connection with Ongpin’s alleged violation of Section 27 (27.1) of Republic Act No. 8799 otherwise known as the Securities Regulation Code.

The SEC en banc ruling also ordered Ongpin to resign from all positions he is holding as officer or member of the board in any listed company.

Ongpin sits as chairman of two listed firms: PhilWeb Corporation and Atok Big Wedge Incorporated.

The local corporate regulators accused Ongpin of insider trading when he bought Philex shares in 2009, a few days before he sold a huge sum of shares to Manuel V. Pangilinan at an agreed price.

Heavy trading in 2009

Ongpin acquired his first block of Philex Mining shares from Banco de Oro in 2007. He then acquired additional shares held by John Gokongwei and Manuel Zamora.

On December 2, 2009, Ongpin, through Golden Media Corporation, bought another 50 million shares at P19.25 each, from the open market.

In just a short period after the acquisition of more shares, Ongpin sold his 550 million shares for P21 apiece to Two Rivers Pacific Holdings Corporation, a subsidiary of Pangilinan-led First Pacific.

This gave First Pacific control over Philex.

“In this case, appellant was able to consolidate the required number of shares, supplementing his block of shares with the shares brought from the open market, sold them to the subsidiary of First Pacific at the privately agreed price of P21 per share,” the SEC said in its en banc ruling.

On December 8, 2009, Philex Mining disclosed Ongpin’s exit to the company as director and vice chairman.

These quick actions classified Ongpin as an insider, the SEC alleged.

Ongpin, however, has repeatedly said he is not engaged in any insider trading scheme.

Although he refuted the nature of “insider information,” the SEC said Ongpin did not deny that he possessed the material information.

“He clearly was aware of the materiality of the information after he created it by negotiating the selling price of Philex Mining shares at P21 apiece with Pangilinan for the latter to gain control over Philex,” the SEC said.

The regulators issued a show cause order in November 2014, asking Ongpin to prove why no administrative sanctions should be imposed on him for committing 174 counts of insider trading. –

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