Explained: Who is Puneet Dikshit, the McKinsey partner charged with insider trading in the US?

A partner at the consulting firm McKinsey has been charged with insider trading. Who is Puneet Dikshit, and what is the charge against him? What was his modus operandi?

A partner at the consulting firm McKinsey has been charged in the United States with using nonpublic information to make illegal profits in the market to the tune of half a million dollars.

Puneet Dikshit, 40, was arrested on Wednesday after being charged with insider trading ahead of the acquisition of fintech company GreenSky by the investment banking giant Goldman Sachs for $2.24 billion in September.

Dikshit played a key role in advising Goldman on the deal. Back in 2012, former McKinsey CEO Rajat Gupta was convicted of insider trading and sent to two years in prison.

CNBC, which first flagged suspicious trades around the Goldman-GreenSky deal, described Dikshit’s arrest as the “latest example of a highly compensated professional allegedly succumbing to the temptation to trade off material nonpublic information”.

Partners at the McKinsey consultancy can make more than $1 million in total annual compensation, the CNBC report said, quoting unnamed recruiters.

The charge

Damian Williams, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said on Wednesday (November 10) that Dikshit “exploited his access to material nonpublic information about a pending acquisition of GreenSky, Inc., to trade in GreenSky call options”.

“This breach of duties to his firm and its investment bank client — and violation of the law — allegedly reaped the defendant nearly half a million dollars in illegal profits. Now Puneet Dikshit has been charged with serious felonies for his alleged conduct,” a statement issued by the attorney’s office said.

Dikshit, who lives in New York, has been charged with two counts of securities fraud, each of which has a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, the statement said.

It quoted FBI Assistant Director Michael J. Driscoll as saying that actions such as the ones by Dikshit “undermine the public’s confidence in the integrity of financial markets”, and the prosecution of Dikshit “should serve as a warning to others considering similar conduct”.

Modus operandi

According to the complaint that was unsealed in federal court in Manhattan on Wednesday, between November 2019 and July 2020, and again between April and September this year, “the Investment Bank (Goldman) engaged the Consulting Firm (McKinsey) to provide various consulting services related to its consideration of an acquisition of GreenSky and the post-acquisition integration of GreenSky”.

The attorney’s office described GreenSky as a “publicly traded financial technology company that provided technology to banks and merchants to make loans to consumers for home improvement, solar, healthcare, and other purposes”.

Dikshit was one of the McKinsey partners leading Goldman’s engagements to acquire GreenSky. “In that role, he had access to material, nonpublic information, which he misappropriated and, in violation of the duties that he owed to the Investment Bank and the Consulting Firm, used to trade GreenSky call options,” according to the statement.

Dikshit carried out this trading between July 26 and September 15 this year, even as he was leading the team that was advising Goldman on its potential acquisition of GreenSky.

“At various times [he] purchased and sold relatively small numbers of GreenSky call options, which had expiration dates weeks or months from the time of purchase,” the statement from the attorney’s office said.

“However, in the two days before the September 15, 2021, public announcement that the Investment Bank would be acquiring GreenSky, Dikshit sold all of these longer-dated GreenSky call options and purchased approximately 2,500 out-of-the-money GreenSky call options that were due to expire just a few days later, on September 17, 2021.”

Then, “after the deal was announced, Dikshit sold these calls and realized profits of approximately $450,000”.

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