Vanished Moody’s analyst told to pay SEC $34.6 million

NEW YORK ― A former Moody’s Investors Service analyst who bolted for India and cannot be found was ordered to pay $34.56 million in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit over his alleged illegal insider trading.

Deep Shah, who was a lodging analyst, has been a fugitive since being hit with criminal and civil charges in November 2009 in connection with a federal insider-trading probe centered on Galleon Group hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan on Tuesday entered a default judgment that requires Shah to give up $8.2 million of improper profits attributed to his tips, pay $1.76 million of interest, and pay a $24.6 million civil fine.

Shah, who is in his late 20s, has been accused of providing tips about two pending takeovers in 2007: Blackstone Group LP’s purchase of Hilton Hotels Corp and Hellman & Friedman’s purchase of software company Kronos Inc.

According to an affidavit attached to a March court filing, a bailiff in India said he left a copy of the SEC complaint at a residence for Shah in Mumbai a year earlier, and Shah “was not found on my inquiries with his servant.”

Default judgments against parties like Shah who fail to defend lawsuits are often impossible to enforce.

“We try to see if there are any assets we can execute on in the United States,” said Valerie Szczepanik, an SEC lawyer. “If not, we have to explore what our options are.” She said the SEC believes Shah is still in India.

In its 2010 fiscal year, the SEC recovered $1.72 billion of ill-gotten gains, interest and fines from defendants, up from $1.68 billion a year earlier.

Shah is the last of 26 defendants criminally charged in the original portion of the government’s hedge fund insider-trading probe, which was unveiled in October 2009.

Four including Rajaratnam were convicted, and 21 pleaded guilty. The SEC said it entered settlements to collect roughly $13.1 million from other defendants in these cases, not including Rajaratnam and others who were convicted.

Moody’s Investors Service is the primary unit of Moody’s Corp.