Ex-Indiana congressman Buyer convicted of illegal stock purchases

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A former Indiana congressman and Persian Gulf War veteran was convicted Friday of insider trading charges after a two-week trial in which jurors rejected his testimony that he had acted innocently in his pursuit of stock market profits.

The verdict against Steve Buyer, a Republican lawyer who served in Congress from 1993 to 2011, was returned after a jury heard evidence about stock purchases he made after he became a consultant and lobbyist.

Buyer, 64, of Noblesville, once chaired the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and served for a time as a House prosecutor during former President Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment trial.

The jury returned guilty verdicts on four securities fraud charges. As the verdict was announced, Buyer shook his head. Judge Richard M. Berman set sentencing for July 11.

Prosecutors said at trial that Buyer took information from clients and used it to make illegal stock trades. Authorities charged him with engaging in insider trading during the $26.5 billion merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, announced in April 2018.

Later, prosecutors said, Buyer made a flurry of purchases of stock in the management consulting company Navigant, which his client Guidehouse was set to acquire in a deal publicly disclosed weeks later.

Prosecutors say Buyer bought tens of thousands of shares after a T-Mobile executive told him about the Sprint deal on a Miami golf weekend, and after a Guidehouse sales director alerted him by phone to a company acquisition—without naming the company but providing enough information for Buyer to guess.

His clients were motivated to share lucrative secrets with him because they wanted his help as a consultant, prosecutors said.

Buyer’s lawyers, though, argued that he was a stock market buff who did research that led to legal profitable trades. They said it was a coincidence that his clients purchased two companies that he had invested in.

“He did research about both the stocks,” defense lawyer Daniel Alonso told jurors. “He actually had a good reason to want to buy them.”

He maintained his innocence as he testified that he did not enrich himself by trading based on secret information about pending acquisitions.

Authorities said Buyer made over $320,000 illegally for himself, relatives and a woman with whom he’d had an affair.

After the verdict, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement that Buyer “leveraged his position as a corporate adviser to twice use his clients’ material nonpublic information to commit insider trading.”

Williams said the prosecution illustrated the intent “to detect and hold accountable those who break our insider trading laws just to make a buck.”

Lawyers for Buyer did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Buyer was an Army reservist with a solo law practice in Monticello, Indiana, when he was called for active duty during the 1990-91 Gulf War. He served as a legal adviser in a prisoner of war camp.

On returning home, he ran for Congress and unseated three-term Democrat Jim Jontz in 1992.

While in Washington, Buyer helped draw attention to Gulf War-related illnesses, and he worked on other issues relating to the military, veterans, prescription drugs and tobacco.

In 2010, Buyer announced that he wouldn’t seek reelection because his wife had a health problem.

The announcement came days after an ethics complaint was made by a watchdog group concerned that a scholarship foundation he’d created had raised over $800,000 without yet giving any money to students.

Buyer said the charity was trying to create a $1 million endowment before awarding scholarships. The Office of Congressional Ethics board closed its review of the complaint without taking action.

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