Uniti Group plans to retain Vaughan Bowen as board director despite being charged by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) for alleged insider trading.
ASIC yesterday revealed Bowen faced the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court to defend against the regulator’s allegations, which centred around his sale of Vocus shares in June 2019.
Following the revelations, Uniti Group put in a request to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) to halt the trading of its shares to “enable an orderly release of information” regarding ASIC’s announcement. The trading halt was granted starting 4 pm yesterday until start of trading this morning.
In an ASX announcement, Uniti Group said it understands that Bowen “emphatically denies” the allegations and will be “vigorously” defending the matter.
“The [Uniti Group] board does not intend to make any changes to Mr Bowen’s role and position of executive director (M&A) of the company, which will continue, until the outcome of this matter has been determined,” the announcement read.
ASIC alleges that Bowen had information related to the then-ongoing acquisition talks between Vocus and global infrastructure investment firm EQT Infrastructure.
EQT withdrew its bid on 4 June 2019 after around a month of discussions. Bowen also offloaded 5,617,554 Vocus shares on the same day.
ASIC said Bowen is being prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, and also faces a maximum of 15 years imprisonment if found guilty. His next hearing is scheduled for December 2021.
Bowen joined Vocus’ board in 2015 after the telco acquired M2 Group, which he co-founded. He later became board chairman in 2017 until his departure the following year. Bowen joined Uniti Group in 2019 as executive director.
In May this year, Vocus general manager for enterprise and state government sales Julia Walsh was lured away from the telco to join Uniti Group as its chief customer officer.