Ex-BlackRock fund manager jailed for insider dealing

Mark Lyttleton sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty to two counts involving EnCore Oil and Cairn Energy

Oil Rig
(Image credit: Getty)

A former star fund manager at "will spend Christmas behind bars" after he was sentenced to a year in prison for insider dealing, says the Financial Times.

Mark Lyttleton ran two funds that at their peak had £2bn in assets. However, in 2011, after a fall from grace, he carried out two trades in oil and gas companies on the basis of information that was not disclosed to the market.

His actions were "premeditated and dishonest", the judge at Southwark Crown Court, London, said.

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Lyttleton used pay-as-you-go mobile phones to place trades through a Panama-based company registered in his wife's name.

One trade, in North Sea explorer EnCore Oil days before its £221m takeover by Premier Oil was announced, netted him a profit of £45,000.

Another, in securities based on shares in Cairn Energy and based on ultimately "over-optimistic" claims at a dinner party of an oil discovery in Greenland, lost him £10,000.

Both companies were on BlackRock's restricted trading list at the time and Lyttleton failed to disclose to his employer "the existence of his trading account or seek clearance for his trades", says the New York Times.

Insider dealing carries a maximum sentence of seven years. Lyttleton was sentenced to 18 months, reduced to one year as "credit for pleading guilty", adds the Times.

A confiscation order for a little less than £150,000 was also made, says the FT.

Lyttleton had earned respect at BlackRock after pulling money from Lehman Brothers before its collapse. One of the funds he managed topped best-buy lists in 2008 and jumped from £300m to £1.4bn in assets in less than a year.

"But the funds struggled after the financial crisis," says the FT, and were included in financial adviser Bestinvest's keenly watched "dog list" in 2011.

Lyttleton's barrister, Paddy Gibbs, said this "waning of power", coupled with "problems at home", prompted a "mental freefall" in 2011 that lay behind the crimes.

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