Joe Lewis spared prison time after pleading guilty in US to insider trading

Joe Lewis Spared Prison Time After Pleading Guilty In Us To Insider Trading
Prosecutors agreed time behind bars was not necessary for Lewis whose family trust owns Tottenham Hotspur. Photo: PA Images
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Larry Neumeister, Associated Press

British billionaire Joe Lewis, whose family trust owns the Tottenham Hotspur football club, will not spend any time in prison after he pleaded guilty to insider trading and conspiracy charges in New York, a US federal judge said.

Judge G.L. Clarke cited his decision to promptly come to the United States to face charges and his failing health, along with a lifetime of good works, in ruling that he will face three years on probation and a $5 million fine rather than time behind bars.


Lewis, 87, was wearing an eye patch and one of his hands shook steadily throughout the one-hour proceeding in Manhattan federal court.

He has remained in the United States since last July.

Before he was sentenced, Lewis spoke briefly, saying he learned as he grew up in England during the Second World War how “precious life is” and decided to spend much of his life devoting himself to finding a cure for “horrendous diseases”.

“Your honour, I’m here today because I made a terrible mistake. I’m ashamed,” he said.


Lewis said he hoped “to make amends and to rebuild the trust that I have squandered” in the remainder of his life.

US sentencing guidelines had called for Lewis, a citizen of the United Kingdom and resident of the Bahamas, to serve 18 months to two years behind bars.

Even prosecutors, though, agreed time behind bars was not necessary.

At his January plea, Lewis admitted that he agreed in 2019 to share secrets about publicly traded companies with several individuals.


Lewis Insider Trading
British billionaire Joe Lewis leaves, centre, Manhattan federal court at a previous hearing (Mary Altaffer/AP)

Prosecutors said afterward that his company, Broad Bay Limited, and Lewis would pay 50 million US dollars in financial penalties, the largest financial penalty for insider trading in a decade.

His lawyer said that the money was in escrow and ready to be paid and plans were for him to leave the United States for the Bahamas on Thursday night.


Prosecutors wrote in their presentence submission that Lewis deserved leniency because he is elderly and “battles significant health issues” that would cause a term of imprisonment to be more difficult for him than others.

They cited his acceptance of responsibility that he demonstrated by voluntarily surrendering rather than forcing a drawn-out extradition battle, and said that he had “otherwise lived a law abiding life”.

The government also noted that Lewis is recognised as one of the 500 richest people in the world with approximately $6.2 billion as of February, including homes in several countries, a $250 million yacht, private planes valued at $90 million and an art collection worth $100 million.

Defence lawyers said in their presentence submission that Lewis “is nearing the end of life in declining health” and that the court’s probation office had recommended no prison time, a period of three years probation and a $5 million fine.


They said Lewis, if he received no prison time, will immediately leave the United States knowing that his conviction will mean he cannot return to see his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who live in the US.

From the start, Lewis was no ordinary defendant.

After his arrest less than a year ago, he had been free on $300 million bail after putting up a yacht and private plane as collateral.

In court papers, prosecutors said Lewis learned secrets about public companies after making large investments.

They said that on at least four occasions, he tipped off his girlfriend, personal pilots, employees and friends, enabling them to profit from the secrets.

“This insider trading was not the result of aberrant, one-time conduct, but rather, a troubling pattern of misconduct over the course of several years,” they wrote.

Prosecutors said it was possible that the insider activity resulted from “hubris, ego, a desire to make a financial gift without parting with his own money, an irrational form of greed, or some other reason”.

But, regardless, “it is clear that Lewis believed he was above the law — that he had achieved a level of wealth and stature that relieved him from having to operate by the same rules that apply to everyday investors”, prosecutors said.

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