This is a hazard Phil Mickelson never encountered on the golf course — and one that the squeaky-clean golfer might find more difficult to navigate than any ordinary sand trap.
The Masters champion and Carl Icahn — the wealthiest man on Wall Street — are being probed by a joint FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission investigation over claims of insider trading involving them and legendary Las Vegas gambler William Walters, according to reports in The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
The FBI is looking into whether Mickelson and Walters may have traded illegally on private information provided by Icahn about his investments in public corporations.
The investigation centers on what were described as suspicious trades in Clorox Co. options days before Icahn announced a bid to acquire the company in 2011.
The joint FBI and SEC inquiry is the latest case to emerge from a multi-year crackdown on insider trading by U.S. authorities.
A lawyer for Mickelson denied to the Journal that the golfer was involved.
"Phil is not the target of any investigation. Period," said the lawyer, Glenn Cohen.
Walters, who plays golf with Mickelson, is a well-known sports gambler who met Icahn through a mutual acquaintance and struck up a friendship, according to sources who have been briefed on the investigation claimed that Icahn had accumulated a 9.1 percent stake in Clorox in February 2011.
In July, the 78-year-old Icahn — whose estimated wealth is over $23 billion — made an offer for the company that valued it at above $10 billion and sent its stock soaring. He would not have been breaking any laws if he revealed details of his takeover bid, unless it was in breach of confidentiality with his investors.
Mickelson and Walters made their Clorox trades as Icahn was mounting his takeover bid for the company, which later failed.
It is not known if Mickelson, who has won five major golfing championships, knows Icahn.
Investigators were also looking into trades that Mickelson and Walters made related to Dean Foods Co, the unidentified sources claimed.
Icahn, Mickelson and Walters were not immediately available for comment. Spokesmen for the FBI and SEC declined to comment.
None of the men have been accused of wrongdoing in the investigation, which started two years ago.