Former Shaw Group executive pleads guilty to insider trading

A former Shaw Group vice president admitted Friday in Baton Rouge that he engaged in insider trading with a family member that netted them $753,022 in profits during Shaw’s 2012 acquisition by Chicago Bridge & Iron Co.

Scott David Zeringue, 48, of Baton Rouge, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud before Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson after an investigation by the FBI, IRS and U.S. Secret Service.

Zeringue admitted to Jackson that he received confidential inside information in advance of CB&I’s acquisition of Shaw and passed it on to a family member, identified in court records only as “J.R.”

Zeringue was vice president of construction operations for Shaw’s Plant Services Division.

In return for limiting his charges to the one count of conspiracy, Zeringue agreed “to provide complete and truthful information to any law enforcement agent or attorney of the United States and at any grand jury proceeding or trial.”

Jackson did not immediately schedule a sentencing hearing for Zeringue.

Court records show Zeringue and “J.R.” purchased either Shaw stock or Shaw stock options five times between July 11, 2012, and July 24, 2012.

All of those transactions, including Zeringue’s use of his office computer to buy 125 shares of Shaw stock, occurred prior to the July 30, 2012, announcement that CB&I would buy Shaw for $3 billion.

Shaw’s stock price rose 64 percent on the day of that announcement.

In a written statement, U.S. Attorney Walt Green said after the hearing that cases like that of Zeringue’s attract federal investigators because: “Insider trading undermines the level playing field that is essential to the integrity and fair functioning of the stock market.”

Green added that the investigation that snared Zeringue is ongoing.

Ian Hipwell, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice, said the length of investigations into insider trading or other white-collar crimes varies according to their size and complexity.

“Some of those investigations can take several years,” Hipwell said.

In admissions he signed with his attorney, David Rozas, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys J. Christopher Dippel Jr. and M. Patricia Jones, Zeringue admitted that “J.R. came to his house in Baton Rouge in November 2013 and handed him $30,000 in cash for his role in J.R.’s insider trading activity.”

Zeringue also said he made another $2,006 from his own transaction.

Now, Zeringue faces a possible sentence of five years’ imprisonment, a fine of as much as $250,000, and up to three years of post-prison supervision by federal investigators.

CB&I’s acquisition of Shaw immediately expanded CB&I into a firm with a project backlog of more than $28 billion and a workforce of 50,000 employees.

At the time of its acquisition, Shaw had long been in the business of engineering, building and maintaining power plants, including some overseas nuclear facilities. Shaw also designed and produced piping systems for a variety of customers.

About 90 percent of CB&I’s construction business was tied to the oil and gas industry prior to its purchase of Shaw.