The DOJ showed us they want to turn the world’s most famous hedge fund, SAC Capital, into the most notorious hedge fund when it filed criminal charges against the 1,000 person firm last week. SAC, which stands for Steven A. Cohen its founder, is accused of creating a culture where inside trading was encouraged for over a decade. This means traders who worked under Cohen got non-public material info about a public company and then went long or short the stock–while the rest of main street was clueless. The DOJ filed a long complaint detailing dates and time they think this happen at SAC but the Justice Department missed an element of seediness that happens within the outside hedge funds Stevie Cohen has invested his personal money in.
According to people who have worked within these seeded Cohen funds the alleged scheme works like this. The non-SAC fund hirs young traders anxious to get into a hedge fund and tells them what names to trade in and out of based on fund research. They are given long or short large buy orders and a day or two after the trade is made they watch it fall apart. That’s because according to traders who’ve been part of the transaction Stevie’s just moved into a sizable position against their trade and the edge he has with inside info proves to be the winning trade.
“We were just there providing liquidity for him. But I had to take the loss on my P&L,” said a trader on condition of he’d never get another job if Stevie Cohen knew he talked to me.
The non-SAC fund, which usually has additional outside investors, figures if the sucker rookie trader is any good they can make up the loss on another trade. This way they make their whale investor (Stevie Cohen), who usually own half the assets under management in the fund, really really happy. It’s kind of like the entry fee for getting Stevie to give you any money at all.
One such fund that’s allegedly done this in the past decade is Scout Capital out of New York. I know this from speaking with people involved in the fund at one time or another. When Scout was just starting out in the early 2000′s they had less than $1 billion of aum and half of it came from Cohen. The Scout founders, Adam Weiss and James Crichton, never worked for SAC Capital (according to their company bios).
“If the intent is to wash trades or manipulate the market, then “NO” it’s not okay,” says Bill Singer former FINRA enforcement lawyer when asked if the scheme was legal. “If he (Cohen) is merely segregating short trades in one subset of accounts and longs in the other, it’s not that an uncommon use of subaccounts albeit via a hedge fund platform.”
Except in the above example this isn’t a ‘subaccount’ of SAC that is being used. It’s a totally separate fund that Stevie doesn’t have a investment advisor role in. So for the DOJ to use this ‘wash trades’ behavior to charge Cohen personally they’d have to get someone at one of these non-SAC funds to flip on the mafia-like hedgie fund titan. And while that might be the DOJ’s teenage fantasy it’s been as impossible as getting Kate Upton to do a full Penthouse spread.
The DOJ stopped short of sending Stevie Cohen through a perp walk himself when they charged his firm on July 25th. When I was on the scene last Thursday there weren’t FBI agents handcuffing the two-story water-side building on the edge of Old Greenwich, Conn. The justice department, who says it wants to seize any and all money SAC made with inside trades, didn’t even ask a court to freeze the funds assets. A call around to broker dealers who trade with SAC shows they are sticking by the firm. Just think if the hedge fund giant beats the DOJ or SEC case then the broker dealers would have given up millions in fees from SAC and likely be put on Cohen’s blackball list. So if the governments plan it to totally scare the rest of The Street from enabling SAC to stay in business it isn’t working.
I’ve written before the DOJ has had a hard on for Cohen for some time now. But to make it a really good humpty dumpty (see explanation number 2), the DOJ’s top dog Preet Bharara will need a lot more dirty evidence (like Stevie doing wash trades) to put Cohen in serious pain.
EDITOR NOTE: I didn’t bother calling SAC’s overpaid outside press Jonathan Gashalter for comment because he’ll just deny it’s even thinkable for Stevie to do this. But I think it’s totally possible so I reported it.