New York (HedgeCo.Net) – A West Palm Beach-based hedge fund advisory firm and its founder have been charged by the SEC with fraudulently shifting money from one investment to another without informing investors, the South Florida Business Journal reports. The firm’s founder and another individual later pocketed some of the transferred investor proceeds to enrich themselves.
“Investment advisers owe their clients a fiduciary duty of utmost good faith and full disclosure about what they’re doing with their money,” said Eric I. Bustillo, director of the SEC’s Miami Regional Office. “Weston and Hallac dishonored that duty with Wellner’s assistance by secretly steering investor proceeds to a third party and then pocketing some of those funds.”
The SEC alleges that Weston Capital Asset Management LLC and its founder and president Albert Hallac illegally drained more than $17 million from a hedge fund they managed and transferred the money to a consulting and investment firm known as Swartz IP Services Group Inc. The transaction went against the hedge fund’s stated investment strategy and wasn’t disclosed to investors, who received account statements falsely portraying that their investment was performing as well or even better than before. Weston Capital’s former general counsel Keith Wellner assisted the activities.
The SEC further alleges that out of the transferred investor proceeds, Hallac, Wellner, and Hallac’s son collectively received $750,000 in payments from Swartz IP. Weston Capital and Hallac also wrongfully used $3.5 million to pay down a portion of a loan from another fund managed by the firm.
Weston Capital, Hallac, and Wellner agreed to settle the SEC’s charges along with Hallac’s son Jeffrey Hallac, who is named as a relief defendant in the SEC’s complaint for the purposes of recovering ill-gotten gains in his possession.
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Weston Capital managed more than a dozen unregistered hedge funds in early 2011 with combined total assets of approximately $230 million.
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