Ever since the SEC decided back in 2015 that Leon Cooperman had pulled one trick too many and should answer for his material nonpublic sins, the crotchety billionaire has made clear that he would spare no expense to marginally improve his unjustly sullied reputation. Then the government abruptly offered a settlement of $5 million – down from $8 million – and proposed to let the old guy keep managing Omega Advisors. With that, Coop's heroic ante turned to a well-timed fold and both sides walked away happy not to waste millions more dollars on a lengthy (though probably entertaining) court battle. This, he now says, despite the whole thing being “extraordinarily abusive.”
But money wasn't the only consideration in Cooperman's mind:
"My lawyers told me that the probability of my winning would be overwhelmingly high, that if I didn't win it had nothing to do with the merits of the case," he said. "It would have to do with the fact that I'm a former Goldman partner, I'm a hedge fund manager, I'm wealthy. Those are enough factoids that impress juries."
As is well known, there are few groups more persecuted in American life than wealthy former Goldmanites who live on 2-and-20. And for a jury considering a case that rests on the argument that it's perfectly fine to trade on insider information after promising not to trade on it so long as you made the promise not to trade on the insider information only after hearing it, it's far easier just to lump the words “Goldman” and “hedge fund” together and assume guiltthan to grapple with the unholy snarl of paradoxes that is U.S. insider trading law.
In the end, however, it wasn't about Cooperman anyway. It was about the owners of the 40-odd percent of assets in the “glorified family office” whose last names aren't “Cooperman”:
"I didn't want to tilt at windmills," he added. "I didn't want to go on for another two or three years, because I promised my investors from day one that this would not cost them anything — between the insurance and my own money I would take care of everything and that basically it would not distract me from doing the job."
Because God forbid anything distract Cooperman from his job.