Australia’s Federal Court has found construction firm Hochtief AG guilty of breaching its insider trading regulations.
In February, 2014, the German group bought up more than A$ 3 million (US$ 2.25 million) worth of shares in Leighton Holdings (now Cimic Group). The court found that – given the fact that Hochtief’s CFO, Peter Sassenfield, was also a non-executive director of Leighton Holdings – the transaction was made in the knowledge that the Australian firm was about to announce strong financial results for the previous year.
Following the transaction, ASIC, Australia’s stock market regulator, took Hochtief to court, where it was charged with breaching the country’s Corporations Act.
Although Hochtief officials claimed the wrongdoing was an act of “mere carelessness and inadvertence”, the judge in the case called it “a serious failure by Mr Sassenfield to exercise appropriate care and diligence”.
Following the court ruling, Hochtief has decided not only to pay the US$ 299,000 fine, but also to donate a further A$ 206,800 (US$ 155,000) to groups promoting financial literacy among Australian shareholders and indigenous peoples.