Federal investigators at the FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have been engaged in a multi-year probe into stock trades made by Phil Mickelson and Las Vegas sports-betting icon Billy Walters, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.
In particular, investigators are looking at what investigators are calling "well-timed" trades the pair made in Clorox and Dean Foods.
Activist investor Carl Icahn is linked to the investigation, going back to a 2011 bid to buy the company. He valued Clorox at $10 billion, which sent the stock soaring in mid-July 2011. Investigators are probing if Icahn tipped this information to Walters, who is an avid golfer and owns several courses in Las Vegas. Walters reportedly plays golf with Mickelson with some frequency, leading investigators to further probe if Walters passed information about the Icahn-Clorox takeover bid to the five-time major champion.
The investigation is yet to yield a definitive link to nonpublic information that would constitute insider trading. None of the men is accused of criminal wrongdoing. However, federal investigators approached Mickelson on Thursday after the first round of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio, asking to speak with him. Mickelson referred the investigators to his legal representation.
The second piece of the investigation does not involve Icahn, only Walters and Mickelson for trades placed in Dean Foods in August 2012 before the company's quarterly earnings announcement and a public offering of stock in a company subsidiary.
"Phil is not the target of any investigation. Period," said Glenn Cohen, a lawyer for Mickelson, on Friday.
“I have done absolutely nothing wrong," Mickelson said in a statement on Saturday. "I have cooperated with the government in this investigation and will continue to do so. I wish I could fully discuss this matter, but under the current circumstances, it's just not possible.”
Mickelson tees off in the third round of the Memorial at 10:22 a.m. on Saturday morning.