Pro golfer Phil Mickelson responded Saturday morning to speculation that he was being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Securities and Exchange Commission for insider trading, by issuing a statement before his third round of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, OH. A Wall Street Journal story on Friday reported that Mickelson, billionaire Carl Icahn and Las Vegas sports betting icon Billy Walters are all under investigation stemming from some “well-timed” stock investments in 2011.
For his part, Mickelson responded with a three-sentence statement. His Saturday morning missive simply said “I have done absolutely nothing wrong. I have cooperated with the government in this investigation and will continue to do so.” He went on to say that he wished he could comment further but circumstances would not allow him to elaborate.
The allegations apparently center around two particular stock purchases over the past three years. One involved Clorox, and a bid by Icahn’s company to buy the company. The bid drove the stock prices up suddenly, and it happened at the same time in which Mickelson and Walters placed similar trades on the Clorox stock. The FBI and SEC are trying to determine whether there was any leak from Icahn’s company to Mickelson and Walters about the takeover bid. On Friday Icahn, one of the most famous investors in the world who has also carried the label of “corporate raider” for much of his business life, stated that, even though he knew who Mickelson was, he had never met him and did not know him personally. A popular theory is that Walters, who is acquainted with both Icahn and Mickelson, passed the information along to Mickelson.
The other possible instance of insider trading involves Dean Foods. Walters and Mickelson apparently both placed trades on the company in August 2012, just before the quarterly earnings report was announced. Coincidentally, the food and beverage company also announced at that time a public stock offering for one of its subsidiaries. Icahn is not mentioned in this aspect of the investigation.
It should be noted that this investigation by federal authorities has been going on for two years and has not produced any evidence of wrongdoing or insider trading. Mickelson, Walters and Icahn have not been accused of any crime. Icahn stands by his reputation, saying he does not “give out inside information,” and pointing out a 50-year unblemished record in his investing career.
Billy Walters is a golf course owner, a high-stakes gambler and developer who owns The Walters Group. His claims of earning millions per year on sports gambling are well-documented.
Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion and winner of five majors in all, has had a reputation of being a gambler himself. His most famous gaming win was when he, and friends, cashed a $560,000 winning ticket for a pre-season bet on the Baltimore Ravens to win the Super Bowl in 2003. Mickelson claims he scaled back his gambling after his son Evan was born following a problem pregnancy experienced by his wife, Amy.
Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky