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Ongpin disputes SEC ruling, to appeal case

posted July 22, 2016 at 11:55 pm by Jenniffer B. Austria [ thestandard.com.ph ]

Former trade minister and businessman Roberto Ongpin plans to appeal the Securities and Exchange Commission’s decision to disqualify him from the board of any publicly listed company and collect a fine of P174 million on allegations of insider trading involving shares of Philex Mining Corp.

“Mr. Ongpin intends to appeal this case, for total lack of merit, to the Court of Appeals,” Ongpin’s legal counsel said in an e-mail message, when sought for comment about the SEC decision.

Ongpin’s legal counsel said the Philex Mining case was originally filed at anti-graft court Sandiganbayan by the Ombudsman as a behest loan case and was twice quashed by Sandiganbayan for lack of evidence.
“This particular case now has been shifted by the SEC to an insider trading case, but in no way can this case be called insider trading. The jurisprudence is clear on that. The case had unquestionably prescribed as it was filed almost a year after the two-year deadline required in the Securities Regulations Code,” Ongpin’s legal counsel said.

 Roberto Ongpin

The SEC en banc, in a decision dated July 8, 2016, ordered the disqualification of Ongpin from the board of any publicly listed company for allegedly committing insider trading in the sale of Philex Mining shares in 2009.

The corporate regulator also ordered Ongpin to pay a fine of P174 million, or P1 million each from alleged 174 counts of insider trading, based on Section 54.1 of the Securities regulation Code.

The amount was higher than the P17.4-million fine recommended by SEC’s enforcement and investor protection department. 

With the en banc decision, SEC ordered Ongpin to relinquish or resign from any or all positions he was holding as officer, member of the board of directors, or any similar functions in a public company or publicly listed company.

The 80-year-old Ongpin, a former trade minister during the Marcos administration, currently sits as chairman of two listed companies, including PhilWeb Corp. and Atok Big Wedge Inc. He is the chairman of Alphaland Corp. and is in the board of Forum Energy Plc.

The SEC investigation showed that during the week of Nov. 24, 2009, businessman Manuel Pangilinan representing the First Pacific Group and Ongpin entered into negotiations with respect to the possible purchase by the First Pacific group of Philex shares from the latter.

The parties settled on the selling price of P21 per share on Dec. 1, 2009.      In the morning of Dec. 2, 2009, Ongpin through his Golden Media Corp. purchased additional 45,964,500 Philex shares from the open market at P19.25  to P19.50 per share. The purchase involved 174 separate transactions.

The corporate regulator claimed that Ongpin had gained non-public material information as a director and as selling shareholder of Philex when he acquired additional shares in the mining firm before Philex shares were sold to the First Pacific group.