SAC Capital settlement approved but will prosecutors next try to nab hedge fund founder Steven Cohen?

Steven Cohen may be able to avoid any criminal charges – as an insider trading case against his hedge fund ended Thursday with the approval of a $1.8 billion settlement package.

There is mounting speculation that with the apparent closing of the insider trading case against SAC Capital, the hedge fund’s founder Steven Cohen may escape criminal charges.

On April 10, U.S. District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain accepted SAC Capital’s guilty plea quickly, and proceeded more cautiously on a $1.8 billion settlement – in a Manhattan courtroom.

“The defendants' crimes were striking in their magnitude and strikingly indicative of a lack of respect for the law," Swain said as she approved the settlement – following a careful review of the facts.

In its description of the proceedings, New York magazine said Swain was “flawlessly polite and ever-smiling,” and “briefly talked about SAC’s ‘greed.’"

Under the terms of the agreement, SAC will no longer manage money from outside investors, and will agree to a five-year probation.

SAC has since changed its name to Point72. On Thursday, Swain gave some stern advice to Point72.

"I hope that going forward the successor entities can and will operate as exemplars not only of financial acumen, but as to respect and compliance with the law," she said.

Also, Bart Schwartz, a former federal prosecutor, was named Point72's compliance monitor.

As far as Cohen and the potential for charges, The Wall Street Journal claims, “Prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have eyed Mr. Cohen for years, but haven't been able to mount a criminal case against him personally.”

No new charges are imminent, The Journal reported. Cohen has never been accused of criminal wrongdoing, news reports said.

Still, other charges are not completely ruled out in the case. “The Plea Agreement does not provide immunity from prosecution for any individual and does not restrict the Government from charging any individual for any criminal offense and seeking the maximum term of imprisonment applicable to any such violation of criminal law,” according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

In addition, New York magazine claims “That the FBI wanted to arrest Cohen in the worst way is clear — according to one federal source, he was ‘the center of the solar system.’"

In fact, Bradley Simon, a former assistant U.S. Attorney and now a defense attorney, told New York magazine, “Why are Cohen’s underlings in prison and he’s not?"

The magazine suggests it may be “difficult to prove that Cohen knew he was receiving illegal insider information.”

Yet, Cohen has a pending civil case brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission for failing to supervise his employees. It attempts to prevent him from working in the securities sector.  The soonest that case will be heard is May 28.

Prosecutors, at least for now, are content with the settlement. “Today marks the day of reckoning for a fund that was riddled with criminal conduct,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. “SAC fostered pervasive insider trading and failed, as a company, to question or prevent it. So far, this Office has successfully convicted eight SAC employees of insider trading, and when so much criminal conduct takes place within one institution, it is appropriate to impose criminal liability on the institution itself. Today’s sentence affirms that when institutions flout the law in such a colossal way, they will pay a heavy price.”

The Journal reported that an attorney for SAC, Peter Nussbaum, said during the hearing, "We have paid and are paying a significant penalty for this misconduct."

In a sentencing memorandum given to Swain, Martin Klotz, an SAC attorney, added, “The defendants are deeply remorseful for the misconduct of each of the individuals who broke the law while employed by them….Even one person crossing the line into illegal behavior is unacceptable. The defendants are chastened by this experience, but are determined to learn from it.”

 

Further reading:

 

Breaking: Judge accepts SAC’s guilty plea, criminal penalty still under discussion in courtroom

Judge in SAC Capital case wants answers to questions before sentencing

Ex-SAC fund manager found guilty of insider trading

 
 
 

Contributing Author

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Ed Silverstein

Ed Silverstein is a veteran writer and editor for magazines, websites and newspapers. A graduate of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, he has won several...

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