Jesse Tortora

Lawyers for Michael Steinberg pressed a former stock analyst turned government witness about his motivations for testifying against the veteran SAC Capital Advisors LP portfolio manager, drawing a reluctant admission from the witness that he wanted to stay out of jail. Jesse Tortora, a former analyst at hedge fund Diamondback Capital LLC, told a jury in Manhattan federal court on Monday that he hoped to receive probation for cooperating with a wider government investigation into insider trading. That acknowledgment came after repeated, and sometimes contentious, questioning by Barry Berke, a lawyer for Mr. Steinberg. Mr. Tortora initially said that when agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation showed up to question him at his parents’ house in Florida in 2010, his “main motive was to tell the truth.” But under cross-examination from Mr. Berke, Mr. Tortora said he was also motivated by the prospect of a lighter punishment. [WSJ]

The 37-year-old Tortora, testifying for the third day in the case against SAC top money man Michael Steinberg, said his big year at now defunct hedge fund Diamondback was 2008, when his compensation hit $2.5 million. He only made $800,000 in 2009 and left the firm that was founded by former SAC portfolio managers early in 2010. Tortora, who is living with his parents in Florida while he awaits sentencing for his cooperation in the Steinberg trial, said he has only $100,000 left from his years of living high as a hedge-fund analyst. While the financial crash decimated portfolios of millions of Americans in 2008, that was Tortora’s big year, when insider trading tips about Dell, among others, paid off. Steinberg traded on that insider tip and knew it was illegal, prosecutors allege. Tortora said he lost $400,000 day trading and “several hundred thousands” in Las Vegas on blackjack and sports betting. He said he has also spent $400,000 on legal fees since his arrest on insider trading charges. While at Diamondback, he also fed insider tips to his stepfather, who did not know they were illegal. “In general, he’s done poorly,” Tortora told the jury. “He has lost a good amount of money.” [NYP]

I suppose in like 1985 there were people who worked on Wall Street and un-self-consciously ate cheeseburgers for breakfast, got shoeshines at their desks, went to strip clubs every night, and slammed down their phones hard enough to break them, but my assumption is that in 2013 any remaining “stereotypical Wall Street behavior” is mediated through popular culture. Some people go into finance with the goal of having a memoir that reads exactly like Liar’s Poker,1 and no one wears contrast-collar shirts because they look good. You wear them – if you do (do you?) – because you saw them in that movie.

Former Diamondback Capital analyst and insider trader Jesse Tortora actually wrote this:

In 2009, Tortora e-mailed a group that included Abbasi and Adondakis: “Rule number one about email list, there is no email list, fight club reference. Rule number two, only data points can be sent, no sarcastic comments. Enjoy. Your performance will now go up by 100 percent in 09 and your boss will love you. Game theory, look it up.”

Look it up, yo. That’s also from Bryan Burrough and Bethany McLean’s amazing Vanity Fair article on the endless pursuit of Steve Cohen, and while the fact that Tortora and his crew of cheeseballs called themselves “Fight Club” has been reported before, the fact that Tortora had to remind them of it BY SAYING “FIGHT CLUB REFERENCE” AFTER HIS FIGHT CLUB REFERENCES is new to me and makes me ashamed to be a human.

Why did these tools insider trade? Read more »

Alternatively, if you made the mistake of approaching Todd Newman with information that was obtained through legitimate means, Jesse Tortora claims you’d be on the receiving end of a death stare the first time and a “What did I tell you about coming in here with a trade idea you ‘thoroughly researched’? Get the fuck out of my office and don’t ever waste my time with this garbage again,” on subsequent occasions. Read more »

  • 14 Nov 2012 at 6:30 PM

Accused Insider Traders Already Guilty Of One Thing

Being the sort of cheeseballs who call their adult “clique of friends ‘the Fight Club,’ named after the Brad Pitt movie.” [Bloomberg, earlier]

Later this week, Anthony Chiasson, a Level Global co-founder, and Todd Newman, a former Diamondback portfolio manager, will go to trial in Federal Court for allegedly making $67 million in ill-gotten gains, based on inside information they obtained about Nvidia Corp and Dell Inc. According to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Chiasson and Newman, who’ve both pleaded not guilty, were able to rack up all their profits by teaming up with a bunch of friends and forming an insider trading club, which is a lot like a book club or fight club in that they took roll, traded canapé duties, and drank Pinot Grigio, but different in that instead of discussing The Art Of Fielding or punching each other in the face, they spent every Monday night from 7 to 9 sharing material non-public information with each other.

“This case describes a tight-knit circle of greed on the part of professionals willing to traffic in confidential information,” Bharara said when the charges were announced in January. “It was a circle of friends who essentially formed a criminal club, whose purpose was profit and whose members regularly bartered inside information.”

In the beginning, when the club was first formed, there was a spirit of camaraderie, as the members happily traded tips for everyone’s mutual benefit. Unfortunately, things started to break down when some people agreed to cooperate with the government by recording their friends admitting wrongdoing in exchange for leniency. Former Diamondback analyst Jesse Tortora, for instance, attempted to incriminate fellow club member Danny Kuo on a call the FBI directed him to make on December 1, 2010, a conversation that Chiasson and Newman’s lawyers are now trying to use as evidence that Tortora, who will be testifying against them lacks credibility, based on the fact that when asked by Kuo if his phone was being tapped, Tortora didn’t say “Yup! Helping the Feds build a case against you, actually.” Instead he went with this:

“What’s happening, man?” Tortora asked during the call, according to a transcript prosecutors submitted to the court.

“Dude, is your phone tapped?” Kuo replied.

“Wait, is the phone tapped?” Tortora asked, adding, “Why do you ask that?”

Read more »