As a hypothetical:
Company A is a competitor of Company B. Management of Company A thinks that Company A is so much better than Company B that Company B will soon go out of business. After getting approval from all major stakeholders of Company A, management publicly announces plans to short Company B and provides their reasons for doing so, but these reasons are mostly subjective. For example, the management of Company A believes that Company A has a better culture, smarter employees, and more efficient processes.
Later on, Company A does short Company B, and Company B shortly thereafter goes out of business, making Company A a lot of money. Has Company A (or its executives acting on Company A's behalf) committed insider trading?
According to rule 240.10b5-1, insider trading is defined as:
among other things, the purchase or sale of a security of any issuer, on the basis of material nonpublic information about that security or issuer, in breach of a duty of trust or confidence that is owed directly, indirectly, or derivatively, to the issuer of that security or the shareholders of that issuer, or to any other person who is the source of the material nonpublic information.
On the one hand, there was no breach of trust as Company A, with approval from stakeholders, made a good faith effort to publicize their actions and information used to justify these actions in advance. On the other hand, a reasonable person might argue that management of Company A had an unfair advantage over other investors in Company B in that they were acting on "nonpublic information about that security". Specifically, management of Company A knew firsthand what Company A was actually like- information that is relevant to the prospects of their competitor, Company B. The general investing public outside of Company A had to rely on the claims of management, which might reasonably be taken with a grain of salt since many companies claim to have "the best" culture and talent.
I understand that this question is fairly speculative, so to make things a little less theoretical, I would prefer answers that provide specific regulations, court cases, or legislation addressing the following issues central to this question:
- Is there some privileged information that simply cannot be acted upon even if made public since it cannot be publicly verified in an objective way (e.g. the firsthand impression of management of how well the company is doing)? To put it another way: is an indirect duty of trust owed by management of a company to the entire general investing public- not just investors in the company itself?
- To what extent does getting the approval of stakeholders in Company A and publicly announcing planned actions in advance protect against insider trading regulations? (Note that this is different than the typical case of employees filing plans to buy or sell stock in their company in advance because (a) this involves another company's stock and (b) the plan is publicly announced after becoming aware of information relevant to the stock price of Company B not before.)