Informed Options Trading Prior to Takeover Announcements: Insider Trading?

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Authors: Patrick Augustin, Menachem Brenner, Marti G. Subrahmanyam

Publication: Management Science, Forthcoming

Abstract:

We quantify the pervasiveness of informed trading activity in target companies' equity options before the announcements of 1,859 U.S. takeovers between 1996 and 2012. About 25% of all takeovers have positive abnormal volumes, which are greater for short-dated out-of-the-money calls, consistent with bullish directional trading before the announcement. Over half of this abnormal activity is unlikely due to speculation, news and rumors, trading by corporate insiders, leakage in the stock market, deal predictability, or beneficial ownership filings by activist investors. We also examine the characteristics of option trades litigated by the SEC for alleged illegal insider trading. While the characteristics of such trades closely resemble the patterns of abnormal option volume in the U.S. takeover sample, we find that the SEC litigates only about 8% of all deals in it.


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