Damilare Sonoiki is a former investment banker and a former writer for the hit sitcom Black-ish, where he worked from 2015 to 2016. Sonoiki, a Nigerian-American who grew up in Houston, is known for African Time, Let’s Just Be Friends, and Trapped: the Movie. Federal authorities said today (August 29) that they had indicted Sonoiki for insider trading, along with Cleveland Browns linebacker Mychal Kendricks. Kendricks has already confessed to the crime.
Soiniki is expected to plead guilty to insider trading and is set to deliver his guilty plea on Wednesday, September 19 at federal court in Philadelphia.
Here’s what you need to know about Damilare Sonoiki:
1. Kendricks Said He Trusted Sonoiki Because The Two Were Old Friends — And Because Sonoiki Graduated from Harvard
Immediately after authorities announced the indictment against Sonoiki and Kendricks, Kendricks released a statement. You can read that here.
Kendricks said that he had trusted Sonoiki because the two were “friends” and because Sonoiki was a Harvard graduate who worked for Goldman Sachs. The linebacker wrote, “I invested money with a former friend of mine who I thought I could trust and who I greatly admired. His background as a Harvard graduate and an employee of Goldman Sachs gave me a false sense of confidence.”
Kendricks appears to be trying to cast blame on Sonoiki and to paint himself in a positive light. The Cleveland Browns player adds that he is fully cooperating with the authorities and that he did not take any of the profits for himself — but says he is committed to paying back the money that he earned through insider trading.
Sonoiki graduated from Harvard in 2013 and went to work for Goldman Sachs. At Harvard, he was known as a “budding film maker” and a writer for the National Lampoon.
2. Sonoiki “Started From the Bottom” and Delivered the Oration for the Harvard Graduating Class of 2013
Sonoiki grew up in Southwest Houston, a neighborhood and attended a boarding school in Virginia, through a program called “a better chance.” In his speech to the Harvard graduating class of 2013, Sonoiki described the “shock” of arriving at Harvard, where he was no longer a star but one of many stars. He went to work for the Harvard Crimson and for National Lampoon; he also buckled down and “stretched himself thin,” in his own words.
Sonoiki also describes the dangers of his childhood neighborhood, where his home was shot up in a drive-by, and where he himself was shot by accident by a friend. He said the memory is a reminder that one should seize the moment and “be now, not eventually, what we want to be.”
Sonoiki said one of his deepest regrets was his failure to meet Reverend Gomes, a well-respected pastor connected to the school. He said he did not want to get caught up in what he called the Harvard culture of “eventually” — the culture of putting off what one truly wants, in order to live a structured life of conventional acheivements.
3. Sonoiki Went to Work as an Investment Banker for Goldman Sachs, Where He Allegedly Started Insider Trading Almost Immediately
While at Harvard, Sonoiki wrote for the Harvard Lampoon and had a reputation as a comedian who believed in doing good. But even before graduating from Harvard, Sonoiki had lined up a job working for one of the world’s biggest investment banks, Goldman Sachs. He described his inner conflict about working for the bank in an address to his graduating class, here.
In any case, US attorney William McSwain says said Sonoiki “brazenly” passed along insider information about mergers and acquisitions to Kendricks beginning in 2013 — when Sonoiki had just started out in the job — until 2015. Sonoiki has not commented publicly on the case, but Kendricks has confirmed that the charges are accurate, saying, in a statement, that he trusted Sonoiki because of their long-standing friendship.
4. Kendricks Allegedly Gave Sonoiki Eagles Tickets and Money In Exchange for Illegal Trading Tips
Authorities say that Sonoiki gave Kendricks tips about at least four corporate acquisitions from July through November 2014. Sonoiki told Kendricks about the aquisitions before they were publicly announced, so that the football star would be able to profit from his advanced knowledge.
In return, Kendricks allegedly handed Sonoiki $10,000 in cash and Eagles tickets.
Kendricks currently plays for the Cleveland Browns, but was an Eagles player during the time of the alleged insider trading. He said in a statement that he did not use the profits from the illegal trading and that he was motivated by the desire to be “more than just a football player.” You can read his statement here.
5. Sonoiki Said That As a First-Generation Immigrant, He Felt Extreme Pressure to Succeed Financially
Sonoiki left Goldman Sachs in 2015 to pursue a career as a writer and producer. He is known for African Time (2017), Let’s Just Be Friends (2017) and Trapped the Movie (2014).
He said that in his four years at Harvard, he met a number of people who worked in comedy, and says he was always inspired by what they did — but said that as a first-generation immmigrant, he felt a lot of pressure to succeed financially, which drove him to take a job with Goldman Sachs.
Sonoiki spent two years working for Goldman Sachs and then, he says, he “got incredibly lucky” and landed a job as a writer on Black-ish. He was a writer for Black-ish from 2015 to 2016. He says his favorite Black-ish episodes are “the barbershop episode” and the episode about “the n-word.” He said his favorite guest star on the show was Tyra Banks.
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