Canadian company wants investigation of stock option trades

The Associated Press
Monday May 20, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO – A Canadian company has called for an investigation into stock option trades in a brokerage account held by a Banc of America Securities analyst. 

The company, Biovail, has questioned analyst Jerry I. Treppel’s objectivity because he owned undisclosed shares in one of Biovail’s competitors, AndrxCQ Group. Banc of America Securities does not require analysts to disclose their holdings in companies that they research. 

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Saturday that Treppel was placed on administrative leave Monday. 

Banc of America spokesman John Roehm, said UBS PaineWebber confirmed that Treppel’s account was managed there and that Treppel had no control or input into trading investment decisions or timing. 

Treppel owned 21,000 shares in Andrx and gave the company a “buy” rating five times last year. He downgraded Biovail to a “sell” rating on April 29. Just before Treppel’s downgrade of Biovail, the company’s earnings report beat Treppel’s estimate and the Wall Street analyst consensus. 

The Chronicle, citing unidentified sources who reviewed records of the account, reported that 35 complicated options trades occurred just before, and sometimes on, the days Treppel gave Andrx positive reports, netting about $100,000. 

“We have been concerned by the contradictory coverage of both Andrx and Biovail,” said Biovail spokesman Michael Sitrick in a prepared statement. “The information made public today is alarming and we believe calls into question the objectivity of all reporting by Mr. Treppel.” 

Biovail called for the investigation Thursday. 

But Banc of America Securities maintains Treppel’s research and downgrade were sound, but placed him on leave because of comments he made to the media about Biovail’s legal strategy.