Cheniere Unit Vice President Accused of Insider Trading

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A vice president at a Cheniere Energy Inc. subsidiary and a friend were accused by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission of using nonpublic information to reap profits on at least four announcements in 2011 and 2012.

Nicholas Zanen, president of trading at a Cheniere unit, and Francis J. van Steenberge traded in Cheniere options ahead of announcements about contracts with counterparties and a public stock offering, the SEC said Friday in a statement that cited a lawsuit filed in federal court in Connecticut.

“Under their alleged arrangement, Zanen would share material, non-public information about Cheniere with van Steenberge,” who would then trade “on the basis of that information in his personal brokerage account,” the SEC said.

Trades on the information Zanen provided resulted in profits of nearly $800,000, which the two men planned to share as part of their arrangement, the SEC said.

Van Steenberge agreed to a settlement, subject to court approval, that would bar him from future violations of the Securities Exchange Act and require him to return profits and pay a fine, the SEC said. The agency is seeking a permanent injunction against Zanen, in addition to a fine and disgorgement of profits.

Zanen and Cheniere didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Van Steenberge couldn’t immediately be reached.

Shares of Cheniere, a Houston-based energy company focused on liquefied natural gas businesses, declined 0.5 percent on Friday to $53.04 in New York.

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