Time was, Steve Cohen told the Feds where they could go. No matter how much heat they put on him, the Big Guy would not burn. If they wanted to relentlessly circle him in an attempt to find evidence of insider trading, that was fine by Steve. But he wasn’t going to act like he gave a rat’s ass and he certainly wasn’t going to wilt under the scrutiny or draw the blinds at Casa Cohen and curl up in a ball to cry. This time two years ago, despite SAC receiving a subpoena from the government, the FBI raiding the firms of several former SAC employees, and an analyst being asked to wear a wire while chatting him up, Cohen not only hopped on a private plane to attend Art Basel, but he did so with a smile on his face. (“Cohen,” the Journal reported, was in “jovial spirits and eager to chat about his fresh art acquisitions,” which included a “large-scale map of the world made from tin cans” that he bought in the first five minutes of the fair opening.) And while one could argue that the heat on Steve has been cranked up quite a bit more since then, we assumed he was dealing with it in typical Steve fashion, and would make it to Miami like always. So it was particularly troubling to hear this:
The opening of Art Basel Miami Beach, under way here this week, looked like the start of the most glamorous doorbuster sale in history, with thousands of V.I.P.’s streaming into the convention center wearing high-end resort casual, ready to rummage through more than 200 of the world’s most prestigious galleries. Among the shoppers were prominent collectors like Peter Brant, the newsprint executive, who strolled with the actor Owen Wilson. At the Gagosian Gallery booth, P. Diddy gave a hug to the casino mogul Steve Wynn beside a $2 million sculpture by Roy Lichtenstein. But one notable titan of this realm was missing: Steven A. Cohen, the hedge fund billionaire, who in less than six years has acquired one of the market’s richest troves, with works by Manet, Monet, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst, to cite just a few.
Other people slightly worried about what the absence of the Big Guy means include gallery owner Timothy Blum, who would put himself at a 9 on the freak out scale re: the possibility of Cohen getting nailed.
“It’s disconcerting,” said Timothy Blum, co-owner of Blum & Poe, a gallery in Los Angeles. “We’re talking about a lot of liquid,” he added, meaning money. “A lot of liquid. I’ve never calculated it out, but he’s responsible for a significant percent of our business.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum is this guy, who apparently thinks that being implicated in an insider trading case is akin to being charged with violating alternate side of the street parking rules.
“I don’t mean to sound cavalier but there is this sense at this point that this is much ado about nothing,” says Todd Levin of the Levin Art Group, an art consulting firm. “If there were actual allegations by the S.E.C. and those turned into actual charges and if it actually went to trial, then we’d have something to talk about. Until then, I don’t think anyone is paying attention to this.”