Washington, D.C., April 15, 2009 (LAWFUEL) – The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a former New York state political party leader and a former hedge fund manager in connection with a multi-million dollar kickback scheme involving New York’s largest pension fund.
In an amended complaint filed today in federal district court in Manhattan, the SEC alleges that Raymond Harding, who is a former leader of the New York Liberal Party, and Barrett Wissman, a former hedge fund manager, participated in a scheme that extracted kickbacks from investment management firms seeking to manage the assets of the New York State Common Retirement Fund. The SEC previously charged Henry “Hank” Morris and David Loglisci for orchestrating the fraudulent scheme to enrich Morris and others with close ties to them. Specifically, the SEC alleges that Wissman arranged some of the payments made to Morris, and Wissman was rewarded with at least $12 million in sham “finder” or “placement agent” fees. Harding received approximately $800,000 in sham fees that were arranged by Morris and Loglisci.
“These men put their greed above the interests of New York’s hard-working public employees,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “We will continue to unravel this tangled web of fraud and corruption.”
James Clarkson, Acting Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office, added, “Public pension fund investments are supposed to benefit only the fund’s investors. They are not a vehicle for repaying political favors or enriching friends.”
The SEC’s amended complaint alleges that the payments to Morris, Wissman, Harding and certain others were kickbacks that resulted from quid pro quo arrangements or that were otherwise fraudulently induced by the defendants. Loglisci ensured that investment managers that made the requisite payments – to Morris, Wissman, Harding, and certain other recipients designated by Morris and Loglisci – were rewarded with lucrative investment management contracts, while investment managers who declined to make such payments were denied fund business. Morris, Wissman, Harding and the others who received the payments at issue did not perform bona fide placement or finder services for the investment management firms that made the payments.
The SEC’s amended complaint additionally charges three entities through which Wissman perpetrated the fraud – Flandana Holdings Ltd., Tuscany Enterprises LLC, and W Investment Strategies LLC – as well as two investment management firms with which he was affiliated at the time, HFV Management L.P. and HFV Asset Management L.P. According to the SEC’s amended complaint, Wissman was a longtime family friend of Loglisci and a key participant in the kickback scheme. Wissman worked with Loglisci and Morris to extract sham finder fee payments for Morris and for himself from investment managers. Wissman received millions of dollars in sham fees and other illicit payments, and arranged millions of dollars in additional payments for Morris. In addition, Wissman caused HFV Management L.P. and HFV Asset Management L.P. to pay sham finder fees to Morris in one New York State Common Retirement Fund transaction.
According to the SEC’s amended complaint, Harding was a political ally who was allegedly inserted by Morris and Loglisci into at least two fund transactions for the sole purpose of compensating Harding, and Harding received a total of approximately $800,000 in sham “finder” fees. In one of those transactions, the investment management firm already had a finder and Morris arranged for that finder to secretly split his fee with Harding. In another transaction, Morris and Loglisci simply inserted Harding as a finder on an investment solely for the purpose of directing money to Harding.
In a partial settlement of the SEC’s charges, Wissman and Flandana Holdings Ltd. have consented, without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, to the entry of a partial final judgment that imposes all of the permanent injunctive relief sought in the amended complaint and defers the determination of disgorgement and financial penalties until a later date.
In addition, HFV Management and HFV Asset Management have consented, without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, to the entry of a final judgment that permanently enjoins them from violating Sections 17(a)(2) and 17(a)(3) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 206(2) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, and that orders them to pay a penalty in the aggregate amount of $150,000.
The SEC’s charges against Harding remain pending. The amended complaint alleges that Harding aided and abetted violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 committed by Morris and Loglisci. The SEC is seeking a permanent antifraud injunction, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest, and financial penalties.
The SEC’s investigation is continuing. The Commission acknowledges the assistance and cooperation of the New York Attorney General’s Office.