DUBLIN, OHIO – Hall of Fame golfer Phil Mickelson confirmed that FBI agents investigating insider trading approached him this week at the Memorial tournament. The five-time major champion said Saturday he has done “absolutely nothing wrong.”
A federal official briefed on the investigation told AP that the FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission are analyzing trades Mickelson and Las Vegas gambler Billy Walters made involving Clorox at the same time activist investor Carl Icahn was attempting to take over the company. When Icahn’s intent became public, the stock price jumped.
The official was unauthorized to speak about the investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. Reports of the investigation appeared in several newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal.
Smiling as he stood before a room packed with reporters and cameras, Mickelson said the case had not been a distraction until FBI agents approached him after his opening round Thursday.
He said it would not affect his preparations for the U.S. Open in two weeks, the only major he lacks for the career Grand Slam.
“It’s not going to change the way I carry myself,” Mickelson said after an even-par 72 left him far behind the leaders. “Honestly, I’ve done nothing wrong. I’m not going to walk around any other way.”
The federal official told AP that Mickelson and Walters placed their trades about the same time in 2011. Federal investigators are looking into whether Icahn shared information of his takeover attempt of Clorox with Walters, and whether Walters passed that information to Mickelson.
The New York offices of the U.S. Attorney and the FBI declined to comment.
The newspaper reports said federal officials also were examining trades by Mickelson and Walters involving Dean Foods Co. in 2012.
After a brief interview, Mickelson stepped outside and signed autographs for about 20 minutes, like it was any other day at a tournament. Fans were supportive as ever on the golf course, and Mickelson gave away so many golf balls to children that his caddie asked a tour official to retrieve more balls from his locker when they reached the turn.
Mickelson wouldn’t discuss details about his relationship with Walters, a multimillionaire who owns several golf courses and auto dealerships. He wouldn’t talk about stock tips he received, but reiterated that he did nothing wrong.
“And that’s why I’ve been fully cooperating with the FBI agents, and I’m happy to do in the future, too, until this gets resolved,” he said.
When asked whether Walters advised him to invest in Clorox or Dean Foods, Mickelson matter-of-factly replied to a Wall Street Journal reporter, “You should know. You wrote the article.”