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Phil Mickelson says he's cooperating with insider trading probe

By Doug Ferguson

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, May 31 2014 3:27 p.m. MDT

Phil Mickelson signs autographs for fans following his third round of the Memorial golf tournament Saturday, May 31, 2014, in Dublin, Ohio.

Darron Cummings, Associated Press

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 The Associated Press 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.

The official was unauthorized to speak about the ongoing 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 investigation had not been a distraction until FBI agents approached him after his opening round Thursday. He did not offer any other details, including his relationship with Walters or any stock advice he might have received.

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 at Muirfield Village 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 the 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 and his caddie asked a tour official to retrieve more balls from his locker when they reached the turn.

He had released a statement early Saturday, and said that he wouldn't release details.

"I can't really go into much right now, but as I said in my statement, I have done absolutely nothing wrong," Mickelson said. "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 declined to answer questions about his relationship with Walters, who owns several golf courses. And 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."

Icahn, 78, is one of Wall Street's most successful corporate raiders, famous for buying stock in underperforming companies, pressuring them to reform and selling out for a fat profit. In recent years, his targets have included Apple Inc., eBay and Dell Inc. His efforts have made him one of America's richest people: Forbes magazine puts his net worth at more than $20 billion, making him the 18th-wealthiest American.

In the 1980s, he pioneered so-called greenmail raids in which financiers threatened companies with hostile takeovers unless they were paid a premium to go away.

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