Quebec’s financial regulator is investigating the stock trades of a dozen Manulife Securities brokers prior to Amaya Gaming’s June 2014 acquisition of online poker giant PokerStars.
In December, the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF) launched a probe into trading that preceded Amaya’s $4.9b acquisition of the Rational Group, the parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt. The AMF and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police paid unannounced visits to branch offices of Manulife Securities – the brokerage arm of insurance giant Manulife Financial, which holds 300k Amaya shares, making it Amaya’s 17th-largest shareholder – and investment bank Canaccord Genuity, as well as Amaya’s own Montreal HQ.
On Thursday, The Globe And Mail reported that 12 unidentified Manulife brokers at the company’s Dorval office west of Montreal were among those being investigated. Sources said the brokers were a “closely knit group” connected by family ties and that the probe included trades made by relatives who didn’t work at Manulife.
Manulife’s Dorval office is located a few kilometers down the Trans Canada Highway from Amaya’s HQ, but Amaya spokesman Tim Foran said neither Amaya nor its execs had ties to the brokers in question. Amaya was “also not aware of any connection between retail brokers at Manulife Securities and any other employee at the company.”
The AMF probe is unrelated to the probe being conducted by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), a US self-regulatory agency that is examining some 300 investors’ trading activities in the run-up to Amaya’s public announcement of its Rational acquisition. Amaya’s stock saw significant rises in both trading volume and share price in the weeks leading up to the acquisition. CalvinAyre.com was first to report the news that Amaya and Rational were holding acquisition talks.