A person has pleaded not guilty to criminal insider trading charges brought by the Financial Markets Authority relating to the sale of Pushpay shares in 2018. 

The defendant, who has name suppression, entered the plea in the Auckland district court on Tuesday morning before Judge John Bergseng. That person is accused of breaking insider trading rules in the Financial Markets Conduct Act. 

Counsel for the defendant, John Dixon, QC, said his client pleaded not guilty and wanted a trial by jury.

The person is accused of encouraging another person to sell Pushpay shares, based on inside information they held about Pushpay founder Elliot Crowther’s plans to resign and sell down his stake in the company. Crowther’s trading was legitimate and he is not a party to the proceedings.

The criminal charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a fine of up to $500,000.

The FMA has also brought a civil claim against both people in the high court in Auckland. Civil penalties can be three times the gain made or loss avoided, and $1 million for an individual or $5m for an entity.

FMA opposed

Dixon told Judge Bergseng he had filed support for name suppression for both people and sought interim name suppression to at least the end of May.

Crown solicitor Brian Dickey said the FMA did not contest the argument for name suppression, but would “almost certainly” oppose both applications.

Judge Bergseng said there was an “arguable case” for name suppression and granted name suppression for both parties and bail for the person facing the criminal charge until June 22.

There will be a two-hour hearing in May to decide whether the name suppression will be extended.

There was no mention or discussion about the case being transferred to the high court.

The trading was referred to the FMA by NZX Regulation in July 2018.

Pushpay has said its conduct hasn’t been investigated by the FMA and it cooperated with the regulator during its probe.