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Ex-InterMune Controller Settles SEC Suit Over Drug Tips

Former InterMune Inc. Controller Bruce Tomlinson settled a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit alleging he passed tips in 2010 about the drug Esbriet to a former business associate.

Tomlinson, who was vice president of finance and InterMune’s principal accounting officer, agreed to pay a $616,000 fine and can’t serve as an officer or director of a publicly traded company for five years, the SEC said today in a statement. He didn’t admit or deny the allegations, the agency said.

Tomlinson tipped Michael Sarkesian, a Swiss businessman, about nonpublic information on the progress of a European Union regulatory committee’s review of InterMune’s application to market Esbriet in Europe, the SEC said in a complaint filed yesterday in federal court in San Francisco. Esbriet is used to treat a fatal lung disease.

Sarkesian contacted Quorne Ltd., a British Virgin Islands-based broker whose only shareholder is a Cyprus trust maintained for the benefit of Sarkesian’s wife, to buy InterMune call options that resulted in a profit of $616,000, the SEC said.

The value of the options soared in December 2010 on news that the EU committee had approved the application. Brisbane, California-based InterMune rose 185 percent that month in trading in New York.

Sarkesian had previously resolved the matter with the SEC and was ordered to disgorge $616,000 without admitting or denying wrondgoing, the SEC said in the statement.

Colleen Mahoney, an attorney for Tomlinson, didn’t immediately return an e-mail yesterday seeking comment on the complaint.

The case is SEC v. Tomlinson, 13-02549, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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