On February 26, 2013, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil injunctive action in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut against Connecticut-based hedge fund managers David Bryson and Bart Gutekunst (“Gutekunst”) and their advisory firm, New Stream Capital, LLC, (“New Stream”) for lying to investors about the capital structure and financial condition of their hedge fund. New Stream was an unregistered investment adviser based in Ridgefield, Connecticut that managed a $750-plus million hedge fund focused on illiquid investments in asset-based lending. The SEC also charged New Stream Capital (Cayman), Ltd. (“Cayman Adviser”), a Caymanian adviser entity affiliated with New Stream, Richard Pereira (“Pereira”), New Stream’s former CFO, and Tara Bryson, New Stream’s former head of investor relations, for their role in the scheme. Tara Bryson has agreed to a proposed settlement relating to her conduct in this matter.
According to the SEC’s complaint, in March 2008, David Bryson and Gutekunst, New Stream’s lead principals and co-owners, decided to revise the fund’s capital structure to placate their largest investor, Gottex Fund Management Ltd. (“Gottex”), by giving Gottex and certain other preferred offshore investors priority over other investors in the event of a liquidation. Gottex had threatened to redeem its investment in the New Stream hedge fund because a wholesale restructuring of the fund just a few months earlier had created two new feeder funds and — without Gottex’s knowledge — granted equal liquidation rights to all investors, thereby eliminating the preferential status previously enjoyed by Gottex. Gottex’s investment totaled nearly $300 million at the time.
The SEC alleges that, even after revising the capital structure to put Gottex ahead of other fund investors, David Bryson and Gutekunst directed New Stream’s marketing department, led by Tara Bryson, to continue to market the fund as if all investors were on the same footing, fraudulently raising nearly $50 million in new investor funds on the basis of these misrepresentations. The marketing documents failed to disclose the March 2008 revisions to the capital structure to the new investors. In addition, Pereira, New Stream’s CFO, falsified the hedge fund’s operative financial statements to conceal the March 2008 revisions to the capital structure.
As further alleged in the complaint, disclosure of the March 2008 changes to the capital structure would have made it far more difficult to continue to raise money through the new feeder funds and would have spurred further redemptions from existing investors in the new feeder funds. As such, disclosure of the March 2008 changes would have adversely affected the defendants’ own pecuniary interests by, among other things, jeopardizing the increased cash flow from a new, lucrative fee structure that they had implemented in the fall of 2007. The defendants also misled investors about the increased level of redemptions after Gottex submitted its massive redemption request in March 2008. When asked by prospective investors about redemption levels, New Stream did not include the Gottex redemption and others that followed. For example, Gutekunst falsely told one investor in June 2008 that there was nothing remarkable about the level of redemptions that New Stream had received and that there were no liquidity concerns.
The SEC further alleges that by the end of September 2008, as the U.S. financial crisis worsened, the New Stream hedge fund was facing $545 million in redemption requests, causing it to suspend further redemptions and cease raising new funds. After several attempts at restructuring failed, New Stream and affiliated entities filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy petitions in March 2011. Based on current estimates, the defrauded investors are expected to receive approximately 5 cents on the dollar — substantially less than half the amount that Gottex and other investors in its preferred class are expected to receive.