Stanyer gets Stern warning

NEW YORK — The Securities and Exchange Commission says a former Sirius VP engaged in insider trading in connection with the satcaster’s play to land Howard Stern.

The commission announced that it filed charges against — and then settled with — former Sirius automotive group chief Tracey Stanyer.

Exec admitted no wrongdoing but will pay about $35,000 for ill-gotten gains and penalties. He is also barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company in the future.

The SEC has come to a similar arrangement with Gary Herwitz, a former president of Mahoney Cohen, the accounting firm that handles Stern’s finances.

Stanyer was terminated from Sirius in April. Sirius wouldn’t confirm that the allegations played a role in his dismissal, but an SEC source acknowledged the investigation has been going on for about a year.

In September 2004, Stanyer found out about negotiations with the shockjock from internal and confidential company conversations, according to the SEC. After learning in early October 2004 that a deal with Stern had been inked, the SEC said, he bought 29,000 shares of Sirius stock just one day ahead of the official announcement, paying between $3.28 and $3.32 per share. He allegedly sold them less than a week later for a profit.

Herwitz, who allegedly heard about the Stern negotiations through a confidential conversation with the CEO of Mahoney Cohen, bought the shares earlier than Stanyer and has been ordered to pay a higher amount — $52,000, which includes fines and ill-gotten gains.

While an SEC filing called Stanyer an exec VP, Sirius later said he was simply a VP, working out of Detroit, where Sirius has been aggressively courting auto manufacturers. He also oversaw a venture designed to enable purchases directly from automobiles via satellite radio. He had previously been an exec at DaimlerChrysler.

No further charges are planned, and the investigation is considered complete, the SEC’s Andrew Calamari told Daily Variety.

Still, the news comes as Sirius makes a big push for subs ahead of Stern’s January launch on the satcaster. One Wall Streeter said the insider-trading story suggests a young company’s growing pains.

Sirius said it thought the news would have no effect on subscriptions or publicity and distanced itself from Stanyer, noting his place in a satellite office and saying it wasn’t feasible to police every employee’s stock purchase.

Sirius has been fielding some tough questions from analysts: Last week, it was downgraded from neutral by both Banc of America and JPMorgan analysts.

The company’s stock slipped on the insider-trading news Monday, dropping 28¢ to $6.67, its lowest price since early November.

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