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Archive for the ‘Hedge fund’ Category

Citigroup Affiliates to Pay $180 Million to Settle Hedge Fund Fraud Charges — The ASTA/Mat Aftermath

The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that two Citigroup affiliates have agreed to pay nearly $180 million to settle charges that they defrauded investors in two hedge funds by claiming they were safe, low-risk, and suitable for traditional bond investors. The funds later crumbled and eventually collapsed during the financial crisis.

Citigroup Global Markets Inc. (CGMI) and Citigroup Alternative Investments LLC (CAI) agreed to bear all costs of distributing the $180 million in settlement funds to harmed investors.

An SEC investigation found that the Citigroup affiliates made false and misleading representations to investors in the ASTA/MAT fund and the Falcon fund, which collectively raised nearly $3 billion in capital from approximately 4,000 investors before collapsing. In talking with investors, they did not disclose the very real risks of the funds. Even as the funds began to collapse and CAI accepted nearly $110 million in additional investments, the Citigroup affiliates did not disclose the dire condition of the funds and continued to assure investors that they were low-risk, well-capitalized investments with adequate liquidity. Many of the misleading representations made by Citigroup employees were at odds with disclosures made in marketing documents and written materials provided to investors.

“Firms cannot insulate themselves from liability for their employees’ misrepresentations by invoking the fine print contained in written disclosures,” said Andrew Ceresney, Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division. “Advisers at these Citigroup affiliates were supposed to be looking out for investors’ best interests, but falsely assured them they were making safe investments even when the funds were on the brink of disaster.”

According to the SEC’s order instituting a settled administrative proceeding:

*  The ASTA/MAT fund was a municipal arbitrage fund that purchased municipal bonds and used a Treasury or LIBOR swap to hedge interest rate risks.

*  The Falcon fund was a multi-strategy fund that invested in ASTA/MAT and other fixed income strategies, such as CDOs, CLOs, and asset-backed securities.

*  The funds, both highly leveraged, were sold exclusively to advisory clients of Citigroup Private Bank or Smith Barney by financial advisers associated with CGMI. Both funds were managed by CAI.

*  Investors in these funds effectively paid advisory fees for two tiers of investment advice: first from the financial advisers of CGMI and secondly from the fund manager, CAI.

*  Neither Falcon nor ASTA/MAT was a low-risk investment akin to a bond alternative as investors were repeatedly told.

*  CGMI and CAI failed to control the misrepresentations made to investors as their employees misleadingly minimized the significant risk of loss resulting from the funds’ investment strategy and use of leverage among other things.

*  CAI failed to adopt and implement policies and procedures that prevented the financial advisers and fund manager from making contradictory and false representations.

CGMI and CAI consented to the SEC order without admitting or denying the findings that both firms willfully violated Sections 17(a)(2) and (3) of the Securities Act of 1933, GCMI willfully violated Section 206(2) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, and CAI willfully violated Section 206(4) of the Advisers Act and Rules 206(4)-7 and 206(4)-8. Both firms agreed to be censured and must cease and desist from committing future violations of these provisions.

The SEC’s investigation has been conducted by Olivia Zach, Kerri Palen, David Stoelting, and Celeste Chase of the New York Regional Office, and supervised by Sanjay Wadhwa.

Charges brought against Connecticut based hedge fund managers

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.

Hedge fund managers charged in Ponzi scheme complaint

US Attorney Anne M Tompkins made the announcement in conjunction with Chris Briese, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Charlotte Division, and Jeannine A Hammett, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI).

According to the criminal indictment, the defendants operated “hedge funds” as part of a conspiracy that took in $40 million from victims for a Ponzi scheme operating under the name Black Diamond Capital Solutions (Black Diamond). The indictment alleges that the conspiracy lasted from about October 2007 through about April 2010. The indictment alleges that the defendants lied to get money from their victims by claiming, among other things, that they had done due diligence on Black Diamond and were operating legitimate hedge funds with significant safeguards, when in reality, neither claim was true. The indictment also alleges that, as Black Diamond began collapsing, the defendants and others created a new Ponzi scheme and with a separate Ponzi account that Davey administered. Thereafter, new victim money was deposited into the Ponzi account and used to make Ponzi payments to other victims and to fund the defendants’ lifestyles.

Hedge Funds In Trouble

Problems in the credit markets coupled with a sharp drop in equity markets have affected many hedge fund returns. As many managers in the loosely regulated $1.75 trillion industry suffer more losses in August, speculation mounts that more funds could be on the brink of shutting down.

Following is a list of firms whose hedge funds have recently posted losses or have been shut down entirely, their location, and a description of their troubles:

— Basis Capital (Australia) – The firm’s Basis Yield Alpha Fund files for bankruptcy protection in the United States on Aug. 29 amid mounting losses from U.S. subprime mortgage assets. Earlier the group suspended redemptions on two of its funds and appointed U.S.-based Blackstone Group to help prevent a fire sale of assets. In mid-August the group said that one of its portfolios had lost more than 80 percent.

— Bear Stearns Cos (United States) – Two Bear Stearns funds which invest in collateralized debt obligations — bonds comprising repackaged mortgages — by mid-June are trying to sell about $4 billion in bonds to raise cash for redemptions. Major investment banks seize assets or unwind positions. Bear eventually bails out one of the funds and lets the other one fail. In late July, Bear Stearns halts redemptions at a third hedge fund.

— Absolute Capital (Australia) – Half-owned by Dutch bank ABN AMRO. Temporarily closes two funds in late July with a combined A$200 million in assets amid problems with collateralized debt obligations.

— Macquarie Bank (Australia) – The bank warns in early August that retail investors in two of its debt funds face losses of up to 25 percent.

— Oddo Asset Management (France) – The French financial services company in late July closes its Oddo Cash Titrisation, Oddo Cash Arbitrages and Oddo Court Terme Dynamique funds, which manage total assets of around 1 billion euros.

— Sowood Capital Management (United States) – The hedge fund which managed money for Harvard University tells investors on July 30 that it will wind down after suffering losses of more than 50 percent which wiped out roughly $1.5 billion in capital.

— SAC Capital (United States) – Hedge fund which manages $14 billion loses 1 percent net of fees in July. It is still up 14 percent net of fees since January.

— Caxton Associates (United States) – The fund managed by industry veteran Bruce Kovner takes the unusual step of sending a letter to clients to assure them that market rumors about out-sized losses were false. The flagship Caxton Global fund is down about 3 percent in July but remains in the black for the year.

Hedge-fund redemption shock

Investors are expected to hit hedge funds with a flood of redemption requests this fall, but those who try to withdraw their money may be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Most hedge funds have “lock-ups,” a minimum period of time during which investors agree to tie up their money and not make any withdrawals.

Once that period ends, investors generally can redeem their stakes as long as they give advance notice, usually 45 to 90 days before the quarter end. Although that cut-off has passed for many funds for the current quarter, investors can still put in requests to get their money out by year-end.

But hedge funds also can slow withdrawals, or suspend them altogether. While they’re usually loath to do this, since it can signal that a fund is on the verge of collapse, current conditions may result in more funds not letting investors take their money out – at least not immediately.

Hedge funds have been hard hit by the recent turmoil in the market. Two Bear Stearns hedge funds heavily invested in securities backed by subprime mortgages blew up in June. Ensuing volatility claimed funds at Sowood Capital Management and led to big losses at so-called quantitative funds, including some run by Goldman Sachs and others.

The losses sparked panic in the market, as well as worries that more problems will surface at other funds. That’s raised expectations that hedge-fund investors, which include institutions like university endowments and pension funds, will try to rush to get their money out before losing more. That, in turn, can unleash a vicious cycle: As hedge funds lose cash, they’re left with less money to invest, which can make it difficult for the funds to recover and hasten a downward spiral.

To avoid that scenario, hedge funds can make it tougher for nervous investors to bail out. For example, they can slow redemptions by imposing a “gate,” which allows them to cap the amount investors withdraw during a given period – usually at 20 percent of the fund’s net asset value, according to David Nissenbaum of law firm Schulte Roth & Zabel, whose hedge-fund practice dominates the industry.

They can also block withdrawals completely, for instance when they can’t accurately value the fund’s assets or don’t have the money to meet requests, legal experts say. Bear Stearns froze withdrawals on a third fund this month, although the reason for the suspension was unclear.

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