Insider trading just isn’t what it used to be. As the feds mount a massive probe into the practice, its definition is becoming murkier: Where insider-traders of old simply whispered secret tips over the phone, today a wide range of data-gathering practices may be legally questionable, the AP reports. The online financial world provides information speedily and subtly, while “expert networks” carry information between corporations and investors about the firms’ activities.
With so much information online, traders can claim they got their facts from “some report somewhere,” says the leading prosecutor in the probe. Meanwhile, corporations are coming up with unusual ways to predict market movements—traders, for example, paid Chinese workers to count the trucks leaving a firm’s warehouse as a guide to future company sales. The question is, what’s insider trading, and what is, as a consultant says, “just smart data gathering”?