By Jonathan Stempel
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said on Wednesday it froze the assets of certain traders in a suspected insider trading scheme involving more than $3.6 million in profits related to the takeover Fortress Investment Group <FIG.N> by Japan's SoftBank Group Corp <9984.T>.
SoftBank said after the close of business on Feb. 14 that it had agreed to acquire Fortress for $3.3 billion in cash. The SEC said unidentified traders at brokerages in London and Singapore had information on the acquisition before it was made public.
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The SEC said the traders purchased Fortress stock on Feb. 14 and sold it the following day for profits totaling $3.6 million.
"The SEC's emergency action to freeze the proceeds of the traders' highly suspicious transactions within days of the public announcement ensures that the profits cannot be removed from the accounts while the agency's investigation of the trading continues," the SEC said in a statement.
The SEC obtained an emergency court order on Feb. 24 to freeze the assets and also to prohibit the traders from destroying evidence, the agency said.
"The commission is seeking a final judgment ordering the traders to disgorge their ill-gotten gains with interest, pay financial penalties, and permanently enjoin them from future violations," the agency said.