Although not high-ranking in terms of dollars, the case of Wall Street Journal columnist R. Foster Winans is a landmark case for its curious outcome.

Winans wrote the  “Heard on the Street” column profiling a certain stock. The stocks featured in the column often went up or down according to Winans’ opinion.

Winans leaked the contents of his column to a group of stockbrokers, who used the tip to take up positions in the stock before the column was published. The brokers made easy profits and allegedly gave some of their illicit gains to Winans.

Winans was caught by the SEC and put at the center of a very tricky court case. Because the column was the personal opinion of Winans rather than material insider information, the SEC was forced into a unique and dangerous strategy. The SEC charged that the info in the column belonged to the Wall Street Journal, not Winans. This meant that while Winans was convicted of a crime, the WSJ could theoretically engage in the same practice of trading on its content without any legal worries.

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