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FBI launches insider trading probe into major US hedge funds

According to the Wall Street Journal, investigators are looking into multiple insider-trading rings that reaped millions

The FBI has begun what is expected to be a far-reaching probe into insider trading with raids on hedge funds linked to some of Wall Street’s most high-profile and wealthiest players.

The sweep – which began with armed agents raiding the Connecticut offices of Level Global Investors and Diamondback Capital Management, both multibillion dollar hedge funds set up by former managers at Steve Cohen’s SAC Capital Advisors – is already affecting stocks: a collective $15bn was wiped off the valuations of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase.

According to reports published in the Wall Street Journal, investigators from several law enforcement and regulatory agencies are looking into multiple insider-trading rings that reaped millions in illegal profits. An FBI spokesman confirmed last night that the agency was executing « court-ordered search warrants », but declined to elaborate.

One focus is whether proprietary information is being passed from companies to hedge funds by network of independent analysts and consultants.

The investigation is being directed by Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara. He said last month it was his belief that « illegal insider trading is rampant » on Wall Street and « the people who are cheating the system include bad actors not only at Wall Street firms, but also at Main Street companies. » Bharara continued: « Unlawful insider trading … is an affront not only to the fairness of the market but also to the rule of law. »

Industry figures already directly affected by yesterday’s raids include SAC veteran David Ganek, a prominent New York art collector and manager of Level Global. A spokesman for the firm confirmed the raids had taken place. « We are cooperating fully with the authorities and, at the same time, we are fully operational and continue to work diligently for the benefit of our investors. »

Agents also executed a search warrant at Loch Capital Management in Boston. Loch’s director’s, Tim and Todd brothers, are acquaintances of Steven Fortuna, a hedge-fund manager who pleaded guilty in an insider trading probe centred on the Galleon Group and is now a co-operating witness.

According to reports, the investigation also includes the major industry players SAC, Citadel Asset Management, and mutual-fund firms Janus Capital Group, Wellington Management Co. and MFS Investment Management, Deutsche Bank, UBS, and Prudential Securities.

The biggest stock holding of Diamondback, one of the firms raided and run by Rich Schimel, Lawrence Sapanski and Chad Loweth, is a 5.8% stake in Virgin Media, the UK pay-television company.Jacob Frenkel, a former federal prosecutor and lawyer with the SEC, noted to the Journal that it is a measure of the government’s seriousness that it has « opted not to issue grand jury subpoenas but instead use the search warrant process. »

The raids are not entirely a surprise. Over the weekend, the Journal reported a significant bust was expected. A California research analyst John Kinnucan had warned several of the firms that he’d been approached by « two fresh faced eager beavers from the FBI » who invited him to wear a wire-tap and to help the investigation into insider trading. Investigators told Kinnucan they wanted to tape his calls with is hedge-fund giant SAC. Kinnucan wrote he « declined the young gentleman’s gracious offer to wear a wire and therefore ensnare you in their devious web. »


Source : The Guardian




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