Sean Stewart, the Long Island-raised investment banker convicted of insider trading in Manhattan federal court for passing stock tips to his North Merrick father, was released from prison this week after serving just one year of a three-year sentence.
Stewart, 37, a highly paid banker who specialized in health care deals at JP Morgan Chase and Perella Weinberg Partners, was let out of prison after an order from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard his case in February but hasn’t issued an opinion.
The release order was issued Tuesday, citing a statute allowing release during appeal if a reversal, new trial or lesser sentence is “likely.” Stewart was let out Thursday, according to prison records. A lawyer for Stewart and a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman declined comment.
The former Kellenberg High School valedictorian and Yale crew member was convicted in 2016 of passing tips on five upcoming deals to his accountant father, Robert, who allegedly made more than $1 million trading from 2011 to 2015. The father pleaded guilty but got no jail time.
Sean Stewart, who testified in his own defense at trial, insisted that he was careless in discussing deals around his family, but didn’t know his father was trading, and after the first trades were uncovered believed his father’s promise that he would stop.
“In my heart and in my mind I know that I did not commit a crime,” Stewart said at his sentencing.
A key piece of government evidence was a conversation that an informant, Richard Cunniffe, taped during a lunch with Robert Stewart, in which the father said Sean had once complained to him about failing to trade on tips he was given “on a silver platter.”
On appeal, defense lawyers argued that statement shouldn’t have been admitted into evidence, and said that after it was, U.S. District Judge Laura Swain should have also allowed jurors to hear about later statements Robert Stewart made to the FBI raising questions about the “silver platter” comment. Swain excluded the later statements.
In an unusual step indicating the judges may be concerned about those issues, the 2nd Circuit requested additional briefs in March relating to the “silver platter” after hearing oral arguments in February.