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Goldman private wealth client holds suspect Heinz account-filing

A trader works at the Goldman Sachs stall on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, April 16, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
A trader works at the Goldman Sachs stall on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, April 16, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) - A Goldman Sachs private wealth client is the holder of the Swiss account at the center of an investigation into insider trading in H.J. Heinz Co options, regulators said in a court filing late Wednesday.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit against unknown traders last week, alleging they used a Goldman account in Zurich to buy an unusual amount of Heinz options the day before the ketchup maker agreed to sell itself for $23 billion.

In an SEC application to freeze the defendants' assets, dated February 15 but filed with the court Wednesday, staff attorney David Brown said the commission had been told by Goldman that "the account holder is a Goldman Sachs Private Wealth client in Switzerland."

In another application also dated February 15 and filed Wednesday, Brown's colleague Megan Bergstrom said Goldman had informed the SEC "it does not have direct access to information about the beneficial owner or owners behind any particular transaction or position" in the account.

A Goldman Sachs spokesman declined comment on the latest filings. The firm has said it was cooperating fully with the SEC investigation.

In addition to the SEC probe, the FBI said this week it is also looking into the case.

Heinz agreed February 14 to sell itself to Warren Buffett's conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway and the Brazilian private equity firm 3G Capital for $72.50 per share in cash, a 19 percent premium to where the stock closed the prior day.

According to the SEC, the unknown defendants generated a profit of nearly $1.8 million by buying contracts betting the stock would surge.

(Reporting By Ben Berkowitz; editing by Andrew Hay)

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