Ed. note: This is a new weekly column by Elie Mystal, Managing Editor of Above the Law Redline, wrapping up the week that was in law and finance. Elie is not a practicing attorney, and anything he says that you listen to can and will be used against you.
Issue #1: The $4.3 billion chat room.
The big news this week is that six firms will pay $4.3 billion to a suite of international regulators in the first set of punishments from rigging the foreign exchange market. Of course, it’s not at all clear that what Forex fixers did was that big of a deal. The Financial Conduct Authority in the U.K. says that “[t]he traders put their own interest ahead of their customers, they manipulated the market — or attempted to manipulate the market — and abused the trust of the public.” That’s lawyer-speak for “that’s not fair.” The fines amount to a $4.3 billion “unsportsmanlike conduct” penalty.
“It created an uphill battle for me,” the owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks said of the nearly five-year SEC battle in private testimony obtained by The Post through an FOIA request. Cuban bid $1.3 billion to buy the Chicago Cubs in 2008, around the same time the SEC publicly accused the “Shark Tank” judge of avoiding a $750,000 loss through improper sales of Internet company Mamma.com. Cuban wasn’t selected to participate in the final bidding round for the Cubs in early 2009. He blamed the SEC for the loss in October 2009 in testimony with the commission’s then-inspector general, David Kotz, who was investigating Cuban’s allegations that the SEC mishandled his case. Cuban told Kotz that the SEC case also cost him a TV opportunity with reality TV producer Mark Burnett, known for “The Voice” and “Shark Tank.” He also said he was hurt in other ways, including getting heckled at Mavs games by kids, who stood behind him chanting “Insider trading!” [NYP]
Former SAC Capital Advisors LP portfolio manager Mathew Martoma won a delay of his Nov. 10 deadline to report to prison to begin a nine-year sentence, while an appeals panel considers whether he may remain free during his challenge to his insider-trading conviction. Martoma, 40, was convicted in February of making $275 million for SAC by using illegal tips to trade in Elan Corp. and Wyeth LLC in what prosecutors called the biggest insider-trading case against an individual. The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York today postponed Martoma’s surrender date until it considers his emergency motion for bail pending appeal. The court has yet to schedule an argument. [BusinessWeek]
Over at the New Yorker today, you will find a long piece exploring the coming undone of the hedge fund formerly known as SAC Capital, now Point72 Asset Management, at the hands of a trader formerly known as Ajai Thomas, now Mathew Martoma. Although nearly a dozen ex-SAC employees have been charged with and convicted of securities fraud over the last several years, it was really the work of work of Martoma, accused in November 2012 of orchestrating “the largest insider trading scheme ever” and found guilty last spring, that was the straw that broke the embalmed shark’s back. Particular details to note:
* While SAC has a history as an extremely cutthroat place to work, where the “down and out” clause means traders are cut loose swiftly and without hesitation, and insults from on high are in no short supply, it was no match for the household of Martoma’s youth, headed by a guy who could teach Steve Cohen a thing or two.
When Martoma’s father first came to America, he was admitted to M.I.T., but he could not afford to attend. He retained a fascination with Cambridge, however, and prayed daily that his oldest son would go to Harvard. Martoma graduated from high school as co-valedictorian, but he ended up going to Duke. Shortly after Mathew’s eighteenth birthday, Bobby presented him with a plaque inscribed with the words “Son Who Shattered His Father’s Dream.”
* Steve Cohen has continued his long and storied tradition of displaying once-living things in boxes at the 72 Cummings Point Road headquarters.
S.A.C. was a notoriously intense place to work. Its headquarters, on a spit of land in Stamford, Connecticut, overlooking the Long Island Sound, are decorated with art from Cohen’s personal collection, including “Self,” a refrigerated glass cube, by Marc Quinn, containing a disembodied head sculpted from the artist’s frozen blood.
* That anecdote that circulating a while back about how Martoma had fainted on his front lawn when approached by the Feds? It wasn’t the mere sight of them, or some sort of line about how they knew he’d been trading on material non-public information that caused him to collapse, but rather this:Read more »
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