(Adds regulator’s comments, background)
SANTIAGO, Sept 2 (Reuters) - Chile’s securities regulator on Tuesday levied $164 million in fines on eight people and the country’s largest brokerage following an investigation into market manipulation linked to trading in fertilizer group SQM and its holding companies.
The biggest individual fine, nearly $70 million, was imposed on Julio Ponce Lerou, SQM’s chairman and the former son-in-law of late dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Ponce controls SQM through his ownership in holding companies Potasios, Norte Grande , Oro Blanco and Pampa Calichera.
The SVS securities regulator said it analyzed over a million stock market transactions, “confirming the existence of a sequence of share buying and selling operations, with similar patterns and repeated over time and with the participation of the same participants, thereby establishing the existence of a coordinated trading scheme.”
Last year, the regulator accused Ponce of buying up shares at below-market prices and then reselling them at above-market prices.
“This scheme directly and economically benefited the president of the holding companies, Mr. Julio Ponce Lerou, and people close to him that participated in said scheme in diverse ways ... in the economic detriment and against the interests of the holding companies, which had other investors such as pension and investment funds.”
The regulator also fined Chile’s biggest brokerage, LarrainVial, and its former chairman, Leonidas Vial Echeverria, who resigned in March; its chief executive, Manuel Bulnes; and managing director of domestic equity capital markets, Felipe Errazuriz.
In addition, the SVS fined Patricio Contesse, CEO of the Potasios holding unit; Aldo Motta, CEO of the Norte Grande, Oro Blanco and Pampa Calichera holding companies; Roberto Guzman, Ponce’s close adviser; and Alberto Le Blanc Matthaei, head of Inversiones Transcorp and Inversiones La Palma, who is accused of participating in the trading scheme through those companies.
LarranVial had no immediate comment on the fines.
The people and LarranVial have 10 days to pay the fine or appeal it in court from the time they were legally notified. (Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)