There isn’t much that stays behind closed doors these days, and the case of Jim Mazzo, the outgoing CEO of Advanced Medical Optics, might be nothing more than a case of camaraderie-loosened lips … or something more toxic.
To recap, Mazzo, has been charged by the SEC with insider trading violations thanks to trades made by several former professional baseball players. The thread of the story seems to be that Mazzo told Doug DeCinces in 2008 of the then-impending move by Abbott to acquire AMO. It appears DeCinces then relayed the scoop to a couple of other former major league baseball players, who along with DeCinces bought shares in AMO ahead of the acquisition and walked away with a considerable payday for their very meager efforts.
One of the reports said that Mazzo and DeCinces met for dinner Oct. 22, 2008, and that Mazzo e-mailed DeCinces the following day “and suggested they talk.” The obvious question is, what did they talk about?
That is the question one assumes will be answered by the SEC investigation, but it’s tough to draw any conclusions just yet. One explanation is that Mazzo talked about his job regularly with DeCinces. They were neighbors, after all. Did Mazzo trust DeCinces not to say or do something stupid? Another explanation is that Mazzo knew DeCinces would use the information, but didn’t expect DeCinces to blab to his cronies.
Frankly, I find it tough to believe Mazzo would be dumb enough to run his boca if he thought DeCinces was going to do anything. After all, Wall Street got a warning shot when Martha Stewart did time in connection with shares of ImClone in 2004, just four years earlier. Did anyone in the Western hemisphere not get the flyer?
My guess is Mazzo will be hit with a fine even in the most innocuous of circumstances. Mazzo may then want to hit DeCinces with a left hook, assuming Mazzo thought he was just talking to a friend about a day on the job. Should the SEC divulge the contents of the e-mail, we may find it said something incredibly incriminating, or something such as “we really need to talk Doug. I’m getting some very strange phone calls!” If Mazzo settles out of court, we’ll never know. Ditto if the SEC drops the charges, but that would tell us pretty much everything we need to know, anyway, a statement that might apply to an out-of-court settlement as well.
I know I sound like an apologist for corporate America to some people, but I just have a hard time believing Mazzo is dumb enough to knowingly leak information he figured someone would act on. Mazzo’s reputation will be sullied in any event, though, which just goes to show that loose lips can still sink all kinds of ships.