Federal jury gets insider trading case against former Colorado oilman Roger Parker

A federal jury began deliberations Thursday on whether former Colorado oilman Roger Parker committed illegal insider trading a decade ago when he told two of his closest friends that billionaire Kirk Kerkorian was about to buy a huge stake in Parker’s company.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sued Parker in 2012, alleging he and buddies Michael Van Gilder and Scott Reiman illegally profited years earlier on the insider information that Kerkorian’s Tracinda Corp. was putting up $684 million for a 35-percent stake in Denver-based Delta Petroleum.

The eight-woman, four-man jury in U.S. District Court got the civil case following nine days of testimony that included Reiman invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, Van Gilder’s assertion that he betrayed Parker’s confidence rather than schemed with him to turn a personal profit, and Parker’s forgetfulness over the details of any conversations he had with the two.

Unlike a criminal trial, where jurors can only say a person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, a civil case requires a juror believe the evidence was more in favor of one side than the other. In each, however, juries must be unanimous in a guilty verdict.

Former Delta Petroleum chairman and CEO Roger Parker
Former Delta Petroleum chairman and CEO Roger Parker

In Parker’s case, the SEC needed to prove he wrongly offered insider information to someone — which he admittedly did — and that there was an expectation the information would be acted on. More importantly, the SEC needed to prove Parker personally profited from the scheme, which his attorneys argued the government had not done.

“They kept the information secret from Mr. Parker,” attorney Pamel Robillard Mackey said in her closing argument. “He had no information about any trading until the FBI showed up in 2012.”

Parker has not wavered in his assertion that Van Gilder, who pleaded guilty to a federal criminal charge of illegal insider trading, and Reiman, who cut a deal with the SEC in which he gave back more than $800,000 in profits and penalties without admitting or denying guilt, each had a duty to keep their conversations private and betrayed him by profiting from their conversations.

Parker told his friends about the Tracinda deal only because they were business partners — Van Gilder was his insurance agent and Reiman was an investor in Delta — and because Parker often sought their counsel.

“He was seeking advice and discussing the pros and cons of selling a significant part of his company,” Mackey said. “He wanted to know whether it made sense.”