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Saturday, February 18, 2012, 08:00 am PT (11:00 am ET)

Analyst who leaked Apple sales projections arrested, charged for insider trading

A research analyst who allegedly obtained secret information about Apple and sold it for hundreds of thousands of dollars has been arrested and charged with securities fraud, conspiracy and insider trading.

John Kinnucan was charged with two counts of securities fraud and two counts of conspiracy on Friday in a U.S. District Court in Portland, Oregon, Reuters reports. A civil case filed by the Securities Exchange Commission filed in the U.S. District Court of Manhattan carries the insider trading charge.

Kinnucan, who was arrested on Thursday, is accused of leaking tips that he received from Apple suppliers such as SanDisk and Flextronics to hedge funds managers. According to the report, a source close to the government probe claims that the analyst had received tips from former SanDisk executive Don Barnetson, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to divulge company secrets on Friday.

"I conspired with a consultant to provide confidential information with respect to my employer at the time, SanDisk Corp," Barnetson said.

Investigators allege that Kinnucan paid sources between 2008 and 2010 to obtain confidential information, including sales trends for the iPhone, for his firm Broadband Research. Kinnucan gained notoriety in 2010 when it was revealed that he had alerted former and current clients about the insider-trading probe after refusing to cooperate with an FBI investigation.

He defended his actions in a 2010 interview by claiming that his clients were not "some scummy fly-by-night hedge funds." Kinnucan's clients are believed to have made approximately $1.58 million off of illegal trading based on tips he provided, while he allegedly made hundreds of thousands of dollars selling the information.

"John Kinnucan used financial incentives, fancy meals and other inducements to curry favor with public company insiders so they would serve up their employers' secrets," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

The federal probe, called Operation Perfect Hedge, has resulted in 60 people pleading guilty or being arrested, according to the report. Several former executives at Apple suppliers have been caught up in the probe. The former senior director of business development at Flextronics has been charged for providing "highly confidential" sales forecasts and details for an unreleased iPhone. A former Samsung manager testified last year that he had provided early information about Apple's iPad project to a hedge fund manager a month before it was announced.

In 2010, it was revealed that a number of analysts covering Apple were being investigated by the SEC for their "channel checks" with Apple's Asian supply chain. Analysts defended the practice as an industry standard, but the probe alleged that some had crossed the line into insider trading through their research.