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Falcone’s Harbinger Hedge Fund To Pay More Than $18 Million, 5 Year Ban

falcone_9.19.11New York (HedgeCo.Net) – Big news in the industry today, New York-based hedge fund adviser Philip Falcone and his advisory firm Harbinger Capital Partners have agreed to a settlement of more than $18 million, according to the New York Times.

Falcone will be barred from the securities industry for at least five years. He will be allowed to assist with the liquidation of his hedge funds under the supervision of an independent monitor. However, Falcone says he will not shut down Harbinger, which has been under attack by US regulators for it’s support of LightSquared.

“Harbinger is not closing down. As expected I have to meet customer redemptions, but the fund is not going away,” Falcone said.

The hedge fund Harbinger Capital is the main backer for upstart wireless carrier LightSquared, which filed for bankruptcy last year shortly after U.S. regulators barred it from turning on its network, citing concerns about interference with GPS devices. Falcone said he plans to continue working on LightSquared.

The SEC filed enforcement actions in June 2012 alleging that Falcone improperly used $113 million in fund assets to pay his personal taxes, secretly favored certain customer redemption requests at the expense of other investors, and conducted an improper “short squeeze” in bonds issued by a Canadian company.

“Falcone and Harbinger engaged in serious misconduct that harmed investors, and their admissions leave no doubt that they violated the federal securities laws,” said Andrew Ceresney, Co-Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.  “Falcone must now pay a heavy price for his misconduct by surrendering millions of dollars and being barred from the hedge fund industry.”

The settlement requires Falcone to pay $6,507,574 in disgorgement, $1,013,140 in prejudgment interest, and a $4 million penalty.  The Harbinger entities are required to pay a $6.5 million penalty.

According to settlement papers filed with the court:

  • Falcone improperly borrowed $113.2 million from the Harbinger Capital Partners Special Situations Fund (SSF) at an interest rate less than SSF was paying to borrow money, to pay his personal tax obligation, at a time when Falcone had barred other SSF investors from making redemptions, and did not disclose the loan to investors for approximately five months.
  • Falcone and Harbinger granted favorable redemption and liquidity terms to certain large investors in HCP Fund I, and did not disclose certain of these arrangements to the fund’s board of directors and the other fund investors.
  • During the summer of 2006, Falcone heard rumors that a Financial Services Firm was shorting the bonds of the Canadian manufacturer, and encouraging its customers to do the same.
  • In September and October 2006, Falcone retaliated against the Financial Services Firm for shorting the bonds by causing the Harbinger funds to purchase all of the remaining outstanding bonds in the open market.
  • Falcone and the other Defendants then demanded that the Financial Services Firm settle its outstanding transactions in the bonds and deliver the bonds that it owed.  Defendants did not disclose at the time that it would be virtually impossible for the Financial Services Firm to acquire any bonds to deliver, as nearly the entire supply was locked up in the Harbinger funds’ custodial account and the Harbinger funds were not offering them for sale.
  • Due to Falcone’s and the other Defendants’ improper interference with the normal interplay of supply and demand in the bonds, the bonds more than doubled in price during this period.

Describing the illegal short squeeze, Gerald W. Hodgkins, Associate Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement said, “After he took control of an entire issue of high-yield bonds, Falcone kept buying with an eye toward rigging the market and punishing short sellers to settle a score. In the process, Falcone hijacked the market for the bonds and illegally manipulated their price and availability.”

Alex Akesson
Editor for HedgeCo.net
alex@hedgeco.net
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