Sean Stewart, the Long Island-bred former investment banker convicted of passing stock tips to his North Merrick father, was sentenced to three years in prison in federal court in Manhattan on Friday.
U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain, unswayed by a plea for leniency from the one-time financial highflier, told Stewart she believed he had lied under oath when he testified last year that he didn’t know his father, Robert, was going to trade on the tips.
“He chose personal appearances, convenience and family benefits over the ethical duties his employers placed on him,” Swain said as the tall, blonde former Yale crew athlete looked on, accompanied in court by his mother, Claudia, and estranged wife, Elizabeth.
The judge also slammed Stewart for his “general attitude” that “rules . . . did not apply to him in the same way” as they applied to everyone else and betrayal of the “trust” placed in him by his clients and employers.
Stewart, 35, a banker specializing in health care deals at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Perella Weinberg Partners, was convicted last year of passing tips on five imminent deals to his accountant father.
Robert Stewart and an associate who became a government witness, Richard Cunniffe, made more than $1 million trading on the tips from 2011 to 2015. Robert Stewart got no jail time after telling Swain that he was an indispensable caregiver for his wife. Cunniffe hasn’t been sentenced.
Sean Stewart, a former Kellenberg High School valedictorian, testified at trial that he carelessly mentioned ongoing deals during conversations with his parents but didn’t know his dad was trading, and said that after he learned of the first trade, his father had promised to stop.
At his sentencing, he acknowledged that he had broken the rules by talking about confidential information, but continued to insist he didn’t commit inside trading.
“In my heart and in my mind, I know that I did not commit a crime,” said Stewart, who was making $500,000 a year at the height of his earning power. “I know that to be true. I also know, however, that I made very serious mistakes.”
Stewart, who now lives in Manhattan, told Swain that the case had laid waste to his life — “utterly devastated” his mother, “destroyed” his relationship with his father, “embarrassed” his wife and was likely to color his future with his 4 1⁄2-year-old son. “It haunts me every single day,” he said.
Federal sentencing guidelines called for Stewart to get a minimum prison term of 63 months. But Swain said they were high due to the $1 million-plus in gains, most of which went to Cunniffe, and credited Stewart for showing “true remorse” for what he did.
After his three years in prison, she said Stewart will be on home confinement for one year after his release, and she ordered him to pay a $7,500 fine. She gave him until June 6 to report to prison. Stewart’s lawyer said he plans an appeal.