Three tech company employees along with family and friends charged in $1 million scheme
Between March and May 2020, as cloud tools were gaining use due to the surge in remote work, Twilio engineers Lokesh Lagudu, Chotu Pulagam and Hari Sure accessed financial information from the company’s databases. Through a private chat group, they shared that information with others, who then executed trades before Twilio announced first-quarter results in May 2020, according to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for California’s Northern District.
Twilio’s results soared past estimates and the stock skyrocketed. Due to the scheme, the group generated over $1 million in profits, the SEC said.
The three Twilio engineers sat on a team responsible for sending customers invoices, and each had signed an agreement saying they would not provide non-public information in a manner that could end in unlawful trading. Twilio’s software helps companies communicate with customers.
Sure passed information on the data to his friend Dileep Kamujula, and Pulagam gave details to his brother, Chetan Pulagam. Lagudu provided information to his girlfriend, Sai Mounika Nekkalapudi, and his friend, Abhishek Dharmapurikar.
After receiving the information, Sure wired around $10,000 to Kamujula, who then bought Twilio call options. Sai Mounika Nekkalapudi and Chetan Pulagam, meanwhile, sought permission to trade options from brokerage accounts they had not used in years, the complaint said.
“The company is aware of the investigations being conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Securities and Exchange Commission and the charges that were filed today,” the spokesperson said. “The company has been cooperating fully with both agencies.”
The Twilio engineers allegedly communicated in a private chat group, exchanging messages in Telugu, a language mostly spoken in southern India. Based on the customers data, they said in the group that the stock would definitely move higher following the results.
“Lagudu disclosed in the chat channel that he had ‘checked’ an internal revenue database and determined that ‘SMS and other costs increased this month’ and that likewise, email revenue ‘was increased,’” the SEC said in the complaint.
Lagudu told his colleagues that some customers were sending three times the number of messages they had previously sent, noting that the group observed one customer going from tens of thousands of dollars in revenue in earlier months to nearly $2 million in March.
Two days before Twilio issued first-quarter results, according to the complaint, Sure said in the chat group that it appeared the stock would jump to $150 from about $110 at the time, leading Chotu Pulagam to reply, “Miillionaireeeeee.”
WHAT IS TWILIO?
Twilio Inc. is incorporated in Delaware and maintains its principal place of
business in San Francisco, California. Twilio develops and sells access to a cloud computing platform that enables companies to integrate various customer communications (e.g., phone calls, internet protocol voice communications, and text messages) within software applications. Twilio’s common stock is registered and is listed on The New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”) under the ticker symbol “TWLO.”