Phil Mickelson's name has surfaced in a federal investigation into insider trading, along with those of investor Carl Icahn and noted gambler Billy Walters.
None of the three men is accused of any wrongdoing. But federal investigators are examining trades involving the men's connection to two separate companies, Clorox and Dean Foods. Specifically, the investigation is seeking to determine whether Mickelson and Walters traded based on insider information.
In February 2011, Icahn acquired 9.1 percent of Clorox. In July of that year, he made a takeover offer that sent the share price rocketing upward. Federal investigators noted an unusual increase in trading activity on Clorox stock shortly before Icahn announced his offer. One theory the government is investigating, according to the Wall Street Journal, is that Icahn gave information about the upcoming bid to Walters, who then gave information to Mickelson. There is no evidence that Icahn and Mickelson know each other.
"Well-timed trading around the time of his bid caught the attention of investigators, who began digging into the suspicious trading in Clorox stock, the people familiar with the probe said," according to the Wall Street Journal.
Ultimately, Icahn's bid failed. And it is possible that even if Icahn did leak inside information, he did not break any laws doing so.
The other element of the investigation, Dean Foods, involves trades Mickelson and Walter made in August 2012, just before Dean announced its quarterly earnings. Investigators are seeking to determine whether someone inside the company may have tipped off Walters, who in turn notified Mickelson.
Federal investigators had been pursuing the Clorox angle with little success until FBI officials approached Mickelson at a New Jersey airport in 2013.
Mickelson, through his representatives, declined comment, as did federal officials and Walters. Icahn was more definitive.
"We do not know of any investigation," he told the Journal. "We are always very careful to observe all legal requirements in all of our activities." He also termed "inflammatory and speculative" any implication that he was involved in any illegal activities.
Mickelson is currently tied for 37th at the Memorial. He was approached by federal investigators after his opening round on Thursday, and reportedly referred the investigators to his attorneys.
Update: Mickelson released a statement on Saturday morning: “I have done absolutely nothing wrong. I have cooperated with the government in this investigation and will continue to do so. I wish I could fully discuss this matter, but under the current circumstances it's just not possible.”
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