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Former VMob CFO Mark Talbot pleads guilty to insider trading

10 Apr 2019
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Former VMob chief financial officer Mark Stephen Talbot will not be appearing as a director of manager of a listed business for at least five years, after he pleaded guilty of insider trading. Talbot will also pay $150,000 as a penalty for his misconduct.

VMob, which now operates as mobile engagement software firm Plexure after a name change in 2016. Talbot was virtual CFO of the company from 2011 to 2014.

In 2014 the Financial Markets Authority started in investigation into the company for insider trading. The insider trading related to VMob share purchases that occurred prior to an announcement that VMob scored a contract with McDonald’s Japan -  that contact would earn the company significant revenue.

Talbot was responsible for making sure that VMob employees knew about the company’s trading policy, however he used insider information and bought shares regardless.

“While the charges of insider trading have been withdrawn, Mr Talbot has accepted it is no defence to state that the shares he purchased through his company, Blumau, on 24 July 2014 were held for the benefit of his father,” The FMA states.

VMob/Plexure itself was not part of the investigation and cooperated fully with the FMA as it investigated Talbot.

Talbot pleaded guilty to one representative charge of failing to disclose a relevant interest, admitted a breach of the Securities Markets Act 1988 (SMA) and given an enforceable undertaking which has been accepted by the FMA in accordance with sections 46 and 46A of the Financial Markets Authority Act 2011 (FMA Act).

Talbot also admits that he had information that VMob was likely to be awarded the contract with McDonald’s Japan during all relevant times when he traded in shares in VMob on 24 July 2014;

• the information was material information that was not generally available to the market, and which he received in his capacity as a senior manager of VMob;

• he knew that the information was material information that was not generally available to the market until the announcement to the market was made on 11 August 2014;

• having traded in shares in VMob on 24 July 2014 he has contravened section 8C of the SMA.

FMA head of enforcement Karen Chang says the FMA’s core focus is on maintaining market integrity. “Unethical trading and a disregard for disclosure obligations erode investor confidence in our markets at a fundamental level.”

Chang also says that the FMA is satisfied with the response to Talbot’s misconduct.

“We always consider the public interest in determining the best outcome for enforcement actions. Where it’s possible to achieve our objectives without the need to spend time and public resource in lengthy court proceedings, then we will do so on the merits of each case, particularly where the final outcome would be less certain and subject to the risks of litigation process.”

“In this case, Mr Talbot’s acknowledgement of responsibility through the guilty plea and the enforceable undertaking were important factors in this resolution.”