Two affiliates of hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors will pay $614 million… (Victor J. Blue, Bloomberg )
NEW YORK — Two affiliates of embattled hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors agreed to pay $614 million to settle insider-trading charges in what regulators said was the largest-ever penalty for such cases.
Billionaire Steven A. Cohen, who founded the company, was not accused of any wrongdoing and not named in the settlements. The case has fueled speculation that Cohen may be the ultimate target of the investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and federal prosecutors.
The SEC's deal dwarfs the $400-million fine the agency slapped on junk-bond king Michael Milken, who came to exemplify the rampant sharing of illicit information on Wall Street during the 1980s.
The cases stem from a long-running insider-trading probe of hedge funds, many of which are affiliated with SAC Capital. Clients have pulled nearly $2 billion from Connecticut-based SAC Capital as the probe led to the arrests of six former employees.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, March 20, 2013 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 2 inches; 68 words Type of Material: Correction
Insider-trading probe: In the March 16 Business section, an article about a Securities and Exchange Commission settlement with two affiliates of hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors mischaracterized a previous deal between the regulator and financier Michael Milken as a fine; it was a settlement in which Milken did not admit or deny wrongdoing. Also, he was not convicted of insider trading but pleaded guilty to other felony counts.
"This is closer to SAC Capital than the government has ever come before," said Tom Gorman, a partner at the law firm Dorsey & Whitney and a former SEC enforcement official. "We're moving up the chain, and you have to see how far up the chain they can get."
The SEC said its investigation was continuing.
A spokesman for SAC Capital said Cohen "has done nothing wrong."
Hedge fund CR Intrinsic Investors, an affiliate of SAC Capital, agreed to pay more than $600 million to the government. The deal stemmed from stock trading in two drug firms that the government alleged was based on information not available to ordinary investors.
The portfolio manager involved in the deals, Matthew Martoma, has pleaded not guilty in the case against him. The SEC settlement does not resolve that case.
Charles Stillman, a lawyer for Martoma, said in a statement: "We will never give up our fight for his vindication."
Another affiliate, Sigma Capital Management, agreed to pay $14 million in a separate insider-trading settlement. This one involved stock transactions in Dell Inc.
The settlements did not include admissions or denials of wrongdoing.
"This settlement is a substantial step toward resolving all outstanding regulatory matters and allows the firm to move forward with confidence," SAC Capital spokesman Jonathan Gasthalter said.
Ernest Badway, a former SEC enforcement attorney, said the settlements seemed to indicate the government's probe into SAC Capital is progressing.
"No one writes a check for $600 million unless there are serious issues," said Badway, now in private practice at the firm Fox Rothschild in New York and New Jersey. "It sounds to me like people are talking, and they are gaining more information."
The settlement was more than the $550-million securities-fraud settlement reached with investment banking giant Goldman Sachs.
It was also far larger than the $156-million fine against Raj Rajaratnam, a hedge fund manager serving prison time for orchestrating a sprawling insider-trading network. A jury convicted Rajaratnam of insider-trading charges in 2011.
The SEC declined to say what might come next in its efforts to combat insider trading. But agency officials hoped the settlements would send a strong signal to Wall Street firms that they should better police their employees.
"We can't tolerate a market rigged for the benefit of insiders and their cronies," George Canellos, the SEC's acting enforcement director, told reporters.