Steven A. Cohen will be barred for two years from managing other people’s money after reaching a civil settlement with federal regulators who accused the billionaire hedge-fund manager of failing to prevent insider trading at his firm, SAC Capital Advisors.
The Securities and Exchange Commission announced the settlement of the long-running case on Friday. Cohen wasn’t fined under the agreement, and neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s allegations.
Federal prosecutors had accused SAC Capital, one of the biggest and most successful hedge funds, of engaging in illegal insider trading on an epic scale while its founder and owner Cohen enabled the misconduct.
SAC agreed in 2013 to plead guilty to criminal fraud charges and to pay $1.8 billion. It was the largest financial penalty at the time for insider trading, according to prosecutors. Cohen himself never faced criminal charges.
Cohen, who lives on a sprawling estate in Greenwich, Connecticut, is one of the highest-profile figures in American finance and one of the country’s richest men. He has been among the handful of upper-tier hedge fund managers who pull in about $1 billion a year in compensation. He founded SAC in 1992 and carved a reputation as a savvy investment manager.
In the settlement with the SEC, Cohen was banned until 2018 from managing outside money or supervising others in the financial industry. In addition, Cohen’s current firm — which replaced SAC and only mainly invests Cohen’s personal fortune — was required to submit to SEC inspections and to hire an independent consultant to monitor its compliance with securities laws.
“Before Cohen can handle outside money again, an independent consultant will ensure there are legally sufficient policies, procedures and supervision mechanisms in place to detect and deter any insider trading,” SEC Enforcement Director Andrew Ceresney said in a statement.
SAC, based in Stamford, Connecticut, managed an estimated $15 billion in assets at one point in 2013. It was at the center of a major insider trading case. Eight individuals, many of them former SAC portfolio managers, were criminally charged with insider trading. Six of them pleaded guilty and two were convicted at trial. But a federal appeals court ruling led prosecutors to drop the charges against seven of the eight last October.
As part of its plea deal with the government, SAC stopped taking in funds to manage from outside investors — transforming into a “family office” investing mainly Cohen’s money. The company was renamed Point72 Asset Management.
SAC also agreed to pay a $900 million fine and forfeit another $900 million to the government. Over 10 years, prosecutors said, the company earned hundreds of millions of dollars illegally as its portfolio managers and analysts traded on inside information from at least 20 public companies: including Elan, Dell, Nvidia, Wyeth and Foundry Networks.
The SEC alleged in its July 2013 case that Cohen failed to prevent two of his SAC portfolio managers from illegally reaping profits and avoiding about $275 million in losses. Both managers provided information to Cohen in 2008 that suggested they had access to inside information, the SEC said. But rather than raise any red flags, Cohen praised one of the managers and rewarded the other with a $9 million bonus, according to the SEC.
Cohen had disputed the SEC’s allegations when it brought the civil action against him. An SAC spokesman said then that Cohen “acted appropriately at all times” and would “vigorously” fight the SEC action.