Updated: Saturday, 31 May 2014 11:04 | By Agence France-Presse

US 'probes possible insider trading' by Icahn, Mickelson

A federal investigation is probing whether a top-ranked professional golfer and a high-stakes gambler got illegal stock tips from billionaire investor Carl Icahn, US media reported Friday.

US 'probes possible insider trading' by Icahn, Mickelson

Phil Mickelson tees off during the 78th Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 11, 2014 in Augusta, Georgia - by Jim Watson

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and US Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating the stock trading patters of champion golfer Phil Mickelson and Las Vegas gambler William "Billy" Walters, alleging they may have gotten inside information from Icahn about his investment plans, according to the reports.

The probe is focused in particular on investments the men made in cleaning products maker Clorox, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal reported.

Icahn's company made a takeover bid for Clorox in 2011 that caused stock prices in the company to jump. His bid was ultimately rebuffed, and prices dropped.

Walters and Mickelson each made very well-timed trades in the company during this period.

This led investigators to probe whether they were acting on information Icahn gave them about his company's takeover attempt.

Insider trading -- profiting on the stock market from inside information not available to the general investing public -- is illegal.

However, it is not yet clear whether Mickelson or Walters were acting on information given to them by Icahn, or, if they were, whether Icahn shared any information illegally. 

The investigators are also looking into Mickelson's and Walters's trading related to another company, Dean Foods, but there is no obvious connection to Icahn, the two papers reported.

Icahn denied the accusations, calling them "inflammatory and speculative".

"We are always very careful to observe all legal requirements in all of our activities," he told the Journal.

A lawyer for Mickelson assured the newspaper his client was not the target of any investigation, and Walters refused to comment.

The SEC and FBI also refused to comment on the case.

Walters and Icahn became friends, while Icahn owned a Las Vegas hotel in 1998. The two have spoken about stocks, according to the Journal.

Walters and Mickelson play golf together, the paper said, but added Icahn said he did not know the golfer.

US authorities in recent years have launched a crusade against insider trading, which has already resulted in dozens of indictments. 

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