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Feb 25, 7:44 PM EST

No prison for key informant in major insider trading case


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NEW YORK (AP) -- A former hedge fund manager who wore a wire to help prosecutors build a massive insider trading case was spared a prison sentence Wednesday after the government called his cooperation extraordinary.

Nearly seven years after Thomas Hardin started aiding what became one of the nation's biggest insider trading investigations, he called his prior conduct "reckless, selfish and inexcusable" as he was sentenced to time served - a brief period he was in custody before an initial court date years ago.

"I'm incredibly humbled and ashamed," he said. "I've done my best to make amends by helping the U.S. government."

Hardin pleaded guilty in 2009 to conspiracy and securities fraud. He made his former firm more than $1 million by trading on secret information about such companies as Google Inc. and Hilton Worldwide, and he passed the tips to other traders who profited off them, Manhattan federal prosecutors said in sentencing papers. Hardin also helped round up payments for sources who provided the information, prosecutors said.

As soon as FBI agents approached him in July 2008, he acknowledged his wrongdoing and began helping authorities piece together a complicated web of interlocking insider trading circles, prosecutors and his lawyers said.

More than two dozen people have pleaded guilty or been convicted, including billionaire Galleon Group hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam. Prosecutors said he earned up to $75 million illegally by trading on knowledge the public didn't have. He was convicted and is serving an 11-year sentence, though he argued on appeal that the government had improperly persuaded a judge to permit a wiretap on his cellphone.

Prosecutors said Hardin provided information about people including investor Roomy Khan, who became an important witness against Rajaratnam and others.

Hardin identified sources and recipients of inside information and engaged in dozens of recorded phone calls and meetings, according to prosecutors' sentencing papers.

His cooperation "indeed, was exceptional," Assistant U.S. Attorney Parvin Moyne said in court.

Hardin, barred from the securities industry after he was charged, has been unable to find other work, his lawyers said. He agreed to forfeit about $46,700, the amount prosecutors say he personally made from his illegal trading.

U.S. District Judge Laura Swain said she believed Hardin's remorse was sincere and "his reactions to it had profound implications for law enforcement."

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Reach Jennifer Peltz on Twitter (at)jennpeltz.

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