The casualties of the largest insider trading case to date continue to mount. The case is already promising to fell IBM's ranking hardware executive and expected CEO candidate, Robert Moffat. It also has taken down a prominent executive in Intel's Capital department. And now it has claimed a third major tech corporation casualty, former AMD CEO and Chairman Hector Ruiz.
Mr. Ruiz was long seen as one of the great rags-to-riches stories of the electronics industry. Growing up in Mexico and learning English from a Methodist missionary, Ruiz would go on to get a PhD in electrical engineering and become a critical player at Motorola. He was rewarded for his 22 year campaign with Motorola with a ranking position at chipmaker AMD in 2000 and became AMD's CEO.
During his time with AMD he made some smart moves -- cutting costs and spinning off the expensive fabrication business. He also crafted the purchase of ATI, which now is one of AMD's most valuable properties. However, much negativity continues to surround Mr. Ruiz to date due to his inability to make his company truly competitive against market leader Intel, and AMD's tendencies under his leadership to miss important CPU deadlines (their Barcelona processor was over a year late).
In 2008 Mr. Ruiz (then Chairman of AMD, having stepped down from the CEO position) left the company to become Chairman at its spinoff, GlobalFoundries. Reportedly during that time he leaked information of the upcoming spinoff to a member of New Castle Investments, Danielle Chiesi, several times. Ms. Chiesi, working in concert with Raj Rajaratnam, billionaire and CEO of the Galleon investment group, then made key purchases of AMD stock, expecting it to soar when the news was announced.
The groups plot was undone when the market tanked during a recession. New Castle and Galleon lost money on their AMD investments. However, that did not detract from the illegal nature of their behavior -- behavior that was carefully noted by federal agents working for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Now GlobalFoundries has announced that the shamed Mr. Ruiz is stepping down. The resignation notice states that Mr. Ruiz will be taking a leave of absence until January, when he will officially leave the company on January 4, 2010. Replacing him will be Alan E. “Lanny” Ross, who previously served as president and CEO of Broadcom.
Mr. Ruiz may soon find himself facing criminal charges, like Mr. Moffat, who similarly passed confidential information on his company's business to Ms. Chiesi. In both cases the ranking executives passed the information apparently without compensation, but according to some business experts that does not detract from the illegality of the actions, or their damaging effect on legitimate shareholders.
While no charges have been filed against Mr. Ruiz yet, government documents state that the SEC is considering charges against an "unnamed" defendant from AMD -- almost certainly Mr. Ruiz. Scott Testa, professor of Business Administration at Cabrini College in Philadelphia comments, "There was insider info and [Mr. Ruiz's associates] tried to use it to their advantage and they lost money, but at the end of the day there's still manipulation of the markets, so even though they lost money that doesn't mean what they did wasn't illegal."
Jerry Sanders, AMD's co-founder and CEO seemed to blast Mr. Ruiz in a recent interview, stating, "It just doesn't make sense. People make dumb mistakes — talk show hosts having sex with subordinates, at least I understand the sex drive. I don't understand this. You just don't talk about things that aren't public. You don't talk to people about insider information, whether you benefit from it or not."