It’s an important distinction. On Thursday the Securities and Exchange Commission named Phil Mickelson as a relief defendant in an insider trading case against noted gambler Billy Walters. But Mickelson was not charged in the case.
The term “relief defendant” is used when the SEC believes that someone holds assets obtained through illegal means – in this case alleged insider trading – but said person is not alleged to have done anything illegal.
In 2012, Mickelson bought a $2.4 million position in Dean Foods on a tip the SEC claims came from Walters, who based the recommendation on information he received from former Dean CEO Thomas Davis.
Mickelson held the stock for a week and made $931,000 in profit.
According to the SEC, Mickelson owed Walters money (an issue that, if true, should raise alarms at PGA Tour headquarters) and made the trade because of that obligation.
In a separate indictment, the SEC alleges that Walters, one of the most successful sports gamblers in American history, made $32 million in profit from his interactions with Davis.
Mickelson’s attorney put out a statement on Thursday claiming the golfer had been “vindicated,” and that he will return the money he made on the trade.
“Phil understands and deeply respects the high professional and ethical standards that the companies he represents expect of their employees, associates and of Phil himself,” the statement read. “He subscribes to the same values and regrets any appearance that, on this occasion, he fell short. He takes full responsibility for the decisions and associations that led him to becoming part of this investigation … He has no desire to benefit from any transaction that the SEC sees as questionable.”