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SEC charges hedge fund managers with defrauding investors

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The Securities and Exchange Commission has separately charged a pair of hedge fund managers and their firms with lying to investors about how they were handling the money invested in their respective hedge funds.

The charges are the latest in a series of actions taken by the SEC enforcement division and its asset management unit against hedge fund-related misconduct in the markets.

In one case, the SEC alleges that San Francisco-based hedge fund manager Hausmann-Alain Banet and his firm Lion Capital Management stole more than a half-million dollars from a retired schoolteacher who thought she was investing her retirement savings in Banet’s hedge fund. In the other case, the SEC charged Chicago-based hedge fund managers Norman Goldstein and Laurie Gatherum and their firm GEI Financial Services with fraudulently siphoning at least USD147,000 in excessive fees and capital withdrawals from a hedge fund they managed.

Since the beginning of 2010, the SEC has filed more than 100 cases involving hedge fund malfeasance such as misusing investor assets, lying about investment strategy or performance, charging excessive fees, or hiding conflicts of interest. The SEC has issued an investor bulletin detailing some of those cases as examples of why investors must rigorously evaluate a hedge fund investment before making one.

“These hedge fund frauds have lured even the most sophisticated investors using the siren song of outsized returns or secured and guaranteed investments,” says Robert Khuzami, director of the SEC’s division of enforcement. “As fraudsters increasingly capitalize on the cachet of hedge funds, we will maintain our strong presence in policing this industry.”

According to the SEC’s complaint filed against Banet and Lion Capital Management in federal court in San Francisco, Banet led the teacher to believe that his hedge fund would invest in the stock market using a long/short equity investing strategy. Instead, Banet brazenly took the teacher’s investment totalling USD550,000 and used it to pay unauthorized personal and business expenses, including his home mortgage, office rent, and staff salaries. Banet also provided phony account statements showing non-existent investment gains and listing an independent administrator that performed no actual work for the fund.

In a parallel action, the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California has announced criminal charges against Banet.

According to the SEC’s complaint against Goldstein, Gatherum, and GEI Financial Services filed in federal court in Chicago, investors in the hedge fund were not told that its adviser removed various performance hurdles when calculating fees. Furthermore, inappropriate capital withdrawals were made from the fund. Goldstein, Gatherum, and their firm never told their advisory clients that Illinois regulators had stripped Goldstein of his securities registrations in 2011, barring him from providing investment advisory services in the state. But even after losing his registration status, Goldstein continued to make all investment decisions on behalf of clients, and he and Gatherum caused GEI Financial Services to violate compliance rules applicable to SEC-registered investment advisers.

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