Former TurboChef executive accused of insider trading

A former senior officer of an Atlanta-based commercial kitchen equipment company is accused by federal regulators of insider trading in advance of the company’s sale to an Illinois firm, according to a civil complaint filed this week in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.

John H. Pamplin Jr., 45 of Nashville, Tenn., a former chief information officer of TurboChef Technologies, is accused of making at least 10 improper trades with the benefit of inside information about a pending sale of the company to The Middleby Corp. The allegedly improper trades resulted in profits of $68,000, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission complaint.

“The allegations in the complaint are without merit,” said James Johnson, Pamplin’s Atlanta-based attorney.

In August 2008, Middleby announced it would acquire TurboChef. Acquisition talks started in April 2008, about the time Pamplin left TurboChef.

The complaint said after Pamplin left the company invested “most of his liquid net worth” in a type of investment known as call options, which the SEC said were set to expire and be worthless unless the company’s stock increased in value.

The complaint said Pamplin kept in touch with TurboChef employees about the status of the deal, and ramped up trading in call options that were priced higher than TurboChef’s share price prior to the sale becoming public. The stock rose after the deal was announced, the SEC said, resulting in signifcant profits.

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