The biggest shareholder in Australian Agricultural Co, 86-year-old Joe Lewis, who holds a 52% stake in Aust Ag through his company, Tavistock Group, has been convicted of insider trading by a US court. Lewis, who also revealed the purchase of another 6 million shares in the beef producer midway through 2023, pleaded guilty in a New York federal court to securities fraud related to insider trading.
Last July, Lewis faced charges from US federal prosecutors, including 16 counts of securities fraud and three counts of conspiracy, for alleged crimes spanning from 2013 to 2021. His company, Broad Bay Ltd, also pleaded guilty in the same proceeding to participating in a scheme to hide his ownership of shares in a pharmaceutical company, resulting in a $US50 million penalty.
According to Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams, Lewis abused inside information to tip off friends, employees, and romantic interests, leading to the largest financial penalty for insider trading in a decade. Lewis faces a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison on the charges he pleaded guilty to in US District Court in Manhattan.
Lewis, with a net worth of $US6.2 billion, remains free on a $US300 million bond secured by his yacht, named the Aviva, and private aircraft. His bail restricts him from traveling outside the US, except for court hearings, and is limited to traveling between New York, Florida, and Georgia.