United States v. O'Hagan, 521 U.S. 642, 22 (1997)

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Cite as: 521 U. S. 642 (1997)

Opinion of the Court

The SEC censured the analyst for, inter alia, aiding and abetting § 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 violations by clients and investors who sold their holdings based on the nonpublic information the analyst passed on. See id., at 650-652. In the SEC's view, the analyst, as a "tippee" of corporation insiders, had a duty under § 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 to refrain from communicating the nonpublic information to persons likely to trade on the basis of it. See id., at 651, 655-656. This Court found no such obligation, see id., at 665-667, and repeated the key point made in Chiarella: There is no " 'general duty between all participants in market transactions to forgo actions based on material, nonpublic information.' " 463 U. S., at 655 (quoting Chiarella, 445 U. S., at 233); see Aldave, 13 Hofstra L. Rev., at 122 (misappropriation theory bars only "trading on the basis of information that the wrongdoer converted to his own use in violation of some fiduciary, contractual, or similar obligation to the owner or rightful possessor of the information").

No showing had been made in Dirks that the "tippers" had violated any duty by disclosing to the analyst nonpublic information about their former employer. The insiders had acted not for personal profit, but to expose a massive fraud within the corporation. See 463 U. S., at 666-667. Absent any violation by the tippers, there could be no derivative liability for the tippee. See id., at 667. Most important for purposes of the instant case, the Court observed in Dirks: "There was no expectation by [the analyst's] sources that he would keep their information in confidence. Nor did [the analyst] misappropriate or illegally obtain the information . . . ." Id., at 665. Dirks thus presents no suggestion that a person who gains nonpublic information through mis-appropriation in breach of a fiduciary duty escapes § 10(b) liability when, without alerting the source, he trades on the information.

Last of the three cases the Eighth Circuit regarded as warranting disapproval of the misappropriation theory, Cen-


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