SEC settles insider trading charges against Andy Bechtolsheim, co-founder of Arista, Sun Microsystems

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Andreas “Andy” Von Bechtolsheim, co-founder of Arista Networks Inc., speaks during a Bloomberg West television interview in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, May 2, 2013.
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Andy Bechtolsheim, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems and Arista Networks, has reached a settlement with the SEC on insider trading charges that will cost him close to $1 million and bars him from serving as a public company officer or director for five years.

The charges against Bechtolsheim, who has an estimated net worth of over $16 billion, is tied to Cisco’s acquisition of Acacia Communications in 2019. The SEC alleged in a press release on Tuesday that Bechtolsheim confidentially learned of an “impending acquisition” on July 8, 2019, and traded options of Acacia, netting him “combined illegal profits” of over $415,000 after the deal was made public the next day.

Cisco announced its agreement to buy networking company Acacia for $70 per share in a $2.6 billion deal, driving Acacia’s stock up 35%. The transaction ended up closing in 2021 at $115 per share for a total price of $4.5 billion.

The complaint, filed in federal district court in San Jose, California, alleged that Bechtolsheim, then chairman and chief development officer of Arista, learned that an acquisition of Acacia was fast approaching from an employee at a separate, unnamed multinational tech company. The employee had consulted with Bechtolsheim about a potential bid by that company to acquire Acacia, the suit said.

Immediately following the discussion, Bechtolsheim traded Acacia options in the brokerage accounts of a close relative as well as an associate, according to the lawsuit.

“Bechtolsheim knew or was reckless in not knowing that the information he learned about Acacia’s impending acquisition was material and nonpublic,” according to the complaint filed on Tuesday. “Bechtolsheim also knew or was reckless in not knowing that he had a duty of trust and confidence to keep such information confidential and not trade in Acacia securities based on this information.”

The SEC said Bechtolsheim settled its charges without admitting or denying the allegations against him. He agreed to pay a fine of $923,740.

Bechtolsheim, 68, resigned as Arista’s chairman and development chief in December but continues to serve as its chief architect. He’s the company’s biggest shareholder with a stake worth close to $14 billion.

“While the SEC announcement did not involve any trading in Arista securities, Arista takes compliance to the company’s code of conduct and insider trading policy seriously,” an Arista spokesperson told CNBC in an email. “Arista will respond appropriately to the situation.”

Bechtolsheim’s attorneys didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bechtolsheim, who lives in Incline Village, Nevada, co-founded Arista in 2004 and took the company public a decade later. The networking vendor now has a market cap of close to $95 billion.

In 1982, Bechtolsheim co-founded Sun Microsystems with Scott McNealy, Vinod Khosla and Bill Joy, and served as chief hardware designer. Oracle announced its $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun in 2009.

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