This could turn out strange: Federal prosecutors are investigating analyst firms to unravel insider trading cases which seem to involve routinely published information about public company supply chains — those ubiquitous ‘channel checks’ which analysts routinely send out.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is taking particular interest in how this affects Apple trades, the WSJ claims this morning. Investigators are pondering the legality of such checks — do they amount to insider trading?

It comes down to information. While back in the day a whispered word in the back room or a short conversation in a bar could constitute insider trading, the remit now seems to extend to cases in which information should be kept quite, or as the WSJ puts it:

“Insider trading basically comes down to where you know or ought to know that the person from whom you’re getting this information has a duty to someone else to keep it confidential,” said former Securities and Exchange Commission Paul Atkins in a video interview with The Wall Street Journal. “If you go in and pay the mail clerk to give you special information, that’s not proper.”

The SEC is taking a close look at expert consultants in an attempt to uncover any insider dealings.

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