FBI joins investigation of Heinz deal

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An investigation into possible insider trading around the $28 billion deal to sell Pittsburgh's H.J. Heinz Co. has drawn the attention of the FBI, in addition to that of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC on Friday moved to freeze assets in a Swiss-based account that the commission said was used to reap more than $1.7 million from trading before Thursday's announcement of the deal to sell the food company to Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and New York-based firm 3G Capital.

The SEC filed a complaint in a federal court in Manhattan alleging that traders had purchased call options the day before the announcement and then profited when the news sent the stock up nearly 20 percent.

According to the court filing, the commission believes those involved were either foreign traders located in Zurich, Switzerland, or traders using foreign accounts there.

An FBI spokesperson in New York on Tuesday said that it's not uncommon for the SEC to handle the civil side of such cases while the Federal Bureau of Investigation reviews any criminal issues.

"We are aware of the allegations and we are looking into it," she said.

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Teresa F. Lindeman: tlindeman@post-gazette.com or at 412-263-2018.

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