U.S. probes insider trading in pre-arranged executive stock sales -Bloomberg News

The seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is seen at their headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 12, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Nov 3 (Reuters) - U.S. authorities are investigating whether executives have been gaming prearranged stock-sale programs designed to thwart the possibility of insider trading, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday citing people familiar with the matter.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department are concerned some people may be manipulating stock-sale programs, which are intended to shield executives from misconduct allegations by scheduling the transactions in advance, the report added.

A source told Reuters the SEC had sought information on protocols for prearranged stock-sale programs from a number of companies.

An SEC spokesperson said the agency does not comment on the existence or nonexistence of a potential investigation. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to Reuters' requests for comment.

Prearranged stock selling programs, known as 10b5-1 trading plans, have come under criticism in response to a growing body of academic research detailing some executives' well-timed trading around material events. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren and other lawmakers have pushed the SEC to toughen its rules to prevent executives from using the plans to trade on inside information.

The probes by the SEC and the Justice Department would indicate a ratcheting-up of scrutiny of such programs, which are common throughout U.S. corporations.

In September, the SEC charged Cheetah Mobile Inc's (0C9y.F) CEO and its former president with insider trading pursuant to a trading plan.

Breast implant firm Sientra Inc (SIEN.O) disclosed last month it has received subpoenas from the Department of Justice and SEC Division of Enforcement relating to the trading activities of a former CEO.

Neither firm responded to Reuters' requests for comment.

Reporting by Chris Prentice in Washington and Manya Saini in Bengaluru and ; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri, Jonathan Oatis and Daniel Wallis

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