martha stewart insider trading

Martha Stewart Insider Trading: How She Made Millions!

The Martha Stewart insider trading scandal is one of the most famous insider trading cases in history. Martha Stewart was convicted of criminal charges related to her sale of ImClone Systems stock, a biotech company.

This case led to a wave of public outrage against insider trading, and the law was changed to make it easier to prosecute criminal cases involving such trades.

Martha Stewart was the subject of a well-publicized scandal in the early 2000s that generated a lot of press. She was accused by ImClone Systems of insider trading in the company’s stock. The ImClone case has been called “the Martha Stewart trial” and is seen as one of the most famous insider trading cases in history.

The Daily News reports that Stewart, who was at the time a television personality and owner of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO), bought shares in ImClone prior to its FDA approval for Erbitux, which was a cancer drug.

According to court documents, Stewart sold shares in ImClone when it was trading at $19 per share on Jan. 28, 2003 — a day before it announced positive results from a clinical trial on Erbitux. At that time, MSLO owned around 6 million shares of ImClone stock, which had an average value of $16 per share.

Stewart also allegedly signed a statement saying she would not disclose her information about ImClone’s results until after its market closed. The next day after she sold her shares, MSLO reported positive news about Erbitux and saw its stock price jump 46% from its lowest point during the previous day’s trading session.

What is the ImClone Case, and How is It Connected to Martha Stewart?

imclone systems
ImClone Systems

In October 2001, Martha Stewart was indicted on insider trading charges that she used inside information about a stock to make illegal trades. The crime involved the biotechnology company ImClone Systems, which was eventually acquired by Eli Lilly for $5 billion.

The case against Martha Stewart was the first in U.S. history to attract national attention and play out in the media for months on end. During this time, Martha Stewart’s name was dragged through the mud, and she became a household name. The case also changed how prosecutors handle insider trading cases and how they handle celebrity defendants who may have access to high-level information but are not necessarily charged as criminals.

The Martha Stewart insider trading scandal was a United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation of stock trades made by Martha Stewart, her broker, and a broker-dealer to which she reported. In 1998, the SEC charged Stewart with insider trading in violation of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The case was settled in 2001 when she agreed to pay a fine of $100,000 and to apologize for her actions publicly.

The SEC’s investigation turned up evidence that some shares of ImClone Systems Inc., then a small biotechnology company, were bought through brokers on Martha Stewart’s behalf before its CEO Daniel McCall sold his shares and before they had been reported as such. The company’s stock price increased from $1.39 to $4.17 per share after news reports about Stewart’s sale of ImClone shares became public knowledge on November 27, 1997.

In February 1998, Stewart admitted to buying ImClone stock based on inside information about an impending FDA decision regarding its drug Erbitux for non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients; she also admitted to selling her entire stake in ImClone shortly after the FDA decision came down.

Learn how the SEC employs data analysis to discover suspect patterns over time, such as successful insider trading in numerous securities.

What Happened to ImClone?

sam waksal
Sam Waksal, CEO of ImClone Systems, who was also involved in the scandal

The ImClone scandal is a complex affair. It involves the government, Martha Stewart, and many other people. The Federal government pursued Martha Stewart because they believed she had been selling shares of ImClone before the announcement of its clinical trial results. However, a number of employees of ImClone testified that Martha Stewart was not involved in any wrongdoing regarding the company’s stock price or its clinical trial results.

Martha Stewart was one of the first people to be prosecuted as a result of this scandal. She was charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to investigators from the U.S. Attorney General’s office and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In addition to these charges, she was also charged with insider trading by NASDAQ for illegally selling her shares before receiving negative news about the company’s drug trial results (i.e., the positive results were made public after Stewart sold her shares).

Read More: Discover some of the most notable incidents in which people traded information that the general public lacked.

Wrapping Up: The Complete Event Timeline of the Stewart Stock Scandal

martha stewart being escorted by police officers

The situation began in 2001 when ImClone Systems’ CEO Samuel D. Waksal and several former company employees were arrested for insider trading. The charges stemmed from Waksal’s purchase of 9,000 shares of ImClone stock before an FDA ruling on its approval for the apparently cancer-treating Erbitux. Waksal was convicted in 2003, but his conviction was overturned on appeal in 2004 because he didn’t receive enough legal help during his trial.

In January 2003, ImClone announced that it had been awarded approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to market Erbitux as a cancer treatment. However, just two months later, the FDA reversed its decision based on new evidence that Erbitux could cause heart damage if taken at high doses over long periods of time.

The ImClone scandal has been one of the most talked about scandals in recent years. The story began when Martha Stewart was indicted for insider trading and conspiracy to commit securities fraud.

In June 2003, ImClone Systems Inc. announced that it had discovered a problem with its experimental cancer drug Erbitux. The company informed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and stopped selling Erbitux. Then in November 2003, ImClone announced that it had found an unrelated error with its experimental hepatitis drug Zoladex. The company also informed the FDA and stopped selling Zoladex.

At this point, it was revealed that Martha Stewart had been using inside information from her friend Rebecca Mark about ImClone’s problems with Erbitux and Zoladex since at least October 2002 when she was warned by her broker about the problems with Erbitux. She reportedly did not tell anyone else about this information at the time because she thought that it would cause too much legal trouble for both herself and ImClone Systems Inc., but now she is being prosecuted for insider trading based on this information!

The Impact of Martha Stewart’s Insider Trading on the Stock Market

In 2004, Martha Stewart was convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice. This came as a surprise to many because the public had viewed her as an icon for decades. However, her insider trading affected the stock market and made millions for those who followed her lead. 

Based on these findings, insider trading does not have to have a negative impact on the stock market or investors. In fact, it could be profitable for those who take part in it. There are several ways for people to engage in illegal insider trading without being detected.

The biggest challenge facing investigators is proving intent, proving beyond a reasonable doubt that someone knew they were breaking the law when they traded on inside information. It’s hard to determine what someone is thinking at any given moment. This has often left investigators guessing when pursuing cases against traders involved in such activities.

The Legal Implications of Martha Stewart’s Insider Trading

Martha Stewart was indicted for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and false statements to federal investigators. Specifically, she was accused of giving inside information about the ImClone Systems Incorporated (a biotechnology company) stock to her then-boyfriend and broker, Peter Bacanovic. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigated the matter. But they declined to prosecute Stewart because they couldn’t find sufficient evidence of wrongdoing on her part. It is unclear whether they found any evidence at all. 

She also cooperated with prosecutors and helped them build a stronger case against Bacanovic by recording phone conversations between them; as a result, he pleaded guilty to charges of lying to an FBI agent and perjury related to his testimony before a grand jury investigating insider trading allegations against ImClone executives Sidney Gilman and Sam Waksal, who was convicted on those counts.

The Sentence Martha Stewart Received for Her Insider Trading

In 2001, Martha Stewart was indicted on conspiracy charges, obstruction of justice, and securities fraud. Her insider trading involved her sale of ImClone Systems Inc. stock after receiving a negative report from the Food and Drug Administration about Erbitux. The prosecution charged that she was tipped off to the FDA report by her broker Peter Bacanovic at Merrill Lynch & Co, who allegedly received an inside tip from her brother, J. Wennberg Wendy Stewart (then president of ImClone). Bacanovic had urged his clients to sell their ImClone shares days before the FDA announcement. This caused a sharp decline in the company’s stock price and made a huge profit for Merrill. 

The Public Reaction to Martha Stewart’s Insider Trading

Media outlets began to question her motives and scrutinize her every move. When she finally stepped down from her CEO role, Martha lost over $750 million worth of stock in the company that bore her name. Her empire was crumbling at an alarming rate. It seemed like there was nothing that could be done to save it. But then something miraculous happened. 

Martha had been out of the spotlight for a while when news broke that the Obama administration had selected her to lead a national economic initiative. And suddenly, all eyes were back on her again, this time for all the right reasons! People admired how she used her business and finance experience to help shape America’s economy. In less than one year after stepping down as CEO, Martha regained control of 99% of company shares.

The Lessons to Be Learned From Stewart’s Insider Trading Scandal

Everyone makes mistakes, even Martha Stewart. But, if you are a business owner, it is important to know insider trading is illegal and can have serious consequences. The lessons to be learned from Stewart’s insider trading scandal include making sure your company has an updated Code of Conduct that covers all employees. 

The penalties could be severe, including jail time if you are found guilty of insider trading. It is important for everyone in the workplace, not just owners, to ensure they are not participating in any illegal activities. Companies need to update their policies on insider trading and how it applies to employees so everything is clear on expected behaviour. Stewart was charged with securities fraud, obstruction of justice and lying about her involvement with ImClone Systems Inc’s sale. 


  • How much money did Martha Stewart lose as a consequence of insider trading?

The securities fraud conviction carried a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The obstruction charge carried a maximum penalty of 20 years and a fine ranging from $5,000 to $250,000.

  • How much did Martha profit from her insider trading?

When Martha discovered the US government’s investigation into ImClone Systems, she sold her shares and tried to get back in at lower prices. This netted her an additional $150K-$3 million.

  • Did Martha Stewart pay her taxes?

She didn’t pay taxes on one of her residences, which led to her back tax problem. The state of New York accused her of tax evasion. Her tax debt has since been paid.