Nearly three years ago, following the publishing of "Is The SEC's Insider Trading Case Implicating FrontPoint A Sting Operation Aimed At S.A.C. Capital?" which exposed the key aspects of SAC's insider trading strategy, and which linked SAC, and the hedge fund world in general, to expert networks three weeks before virtually anyone outside of the 2 and 20 (or 3 and 50 as the case may be) world had heard of them and before they became a household euphemism for insider trading, we expected the full rabid fury of the world's best paid legal team to fall upon us. It didn't, which meant only one thing: we were correct, or they had bigger fish (to avoid harpooning) on their mind. Turns out it was both.
In the months and years following our publication, what we speculated has become fact, and as Vanity Fair's Bryan Burroughs reports, some 71 people have now been convicted or admitted guilt in the case of the government vs Stevie Cohen.
But the final blow against the formerly infallible hedge fund that redefined the concept of "information arbitrage", and whose track record was almost as successful as that of Bernie Madoff, came from Blackstone, which as Reuters reported moments ago, has decided to pull all its money from SAC, which is the official end of SAC as an outside investment asset management operation. Because once the fund of funds operator, and the largest outside investor in SAC, votes no confidence in Cohen, it's game over, and at best SAC may remain as a family and employee-funded office, assuming of course the DOJ doesn't actually decide to demand restitution for years and decades of insider trading.
Actually, one outside investor may remain: the always amusing Anthony Scaramucci, head of the PR company, which has an occasional FOF operation, SkyBridge Capital. From NYT:
A group of Mr. Cohen’s investors continue to stand by him and hope that he stays in business. For Anthony Scaramucci, chief executive of the hedge fund firm SkyBridge Capital and a friend of Mr. Cohen’s, sticking with SAC has as much to do with friendship and loyalty as it does its superior performance.
“A lot of guys, when bombs are going off, you figure out very quickly who your friends are in the trenches,” Mr. Scaramucci said. “Most friends run from bullets, but your best friends run toward them. I have enormous amount of respect for the guy, and I think he’s misunderstood.”
He may be forced to change his tune once Cohen unwinds all outside capital. In the meantime, Blackstone is done. From Reuters:
Billionaire hedge fund manager Steven A. Cohen is losing the financial support of Blackstone Group Inc, the largest outside investor in his embattled SAC Capital Advisors, which is yanking much of its client money, according to a letter reviewed by Reuters.
A pension consultant, in a May 21 letter to clients, said Blackstone has notified Cohen that it intends to "fully redeem" a significant portion of the roughly $550 million the investment firm has invested with the $15 billion hedge fund. The letter from pension consulting firm Russell Investments said Blackstone submitted its redemption notice to SAC Capital sometime before May 15 because of ongoing concerns about the insider trading investigation that continues to engulf Cohen's fund.
Blackstone's investment with SAC Capital is through several investment funds known as hedge fund of funds and also through separately managed accounts it maintains for clients. The decision to redeem from SAC Capital impacts only client money invested in its hedge fund of funds, according to the letter. It's not clear how much of the $550 million is in those hedge fund of funds and it is not clear what Blackstone is advising clients who have money in separately managed accounts that is invested with SAC Capital.
Russell did say in the address to its pension clients that Blackstone "expects to receive 100 percent of investors' capital by year-end." Russell, which manages $173 billion in assets and oversees a number of index funds, also provides advice to pensions and institutional investors on where to invest their dollars in hedge funds.
Regardless, Blackstone's decision is a black stamp of death for SAC:
The decision by Blackstone, which has invested with SAC Capital for at least a decade, is a big blow to the 56-year-old fund manager, who is widely regarded as one of the most successful traders of his generation. Blackstone - which manages about $46 billion in hedge fund investments for public pensions, foundations, corporations and wealthy individuals - is seen as something of a bellwether for other investors in the $2.2 trillion hedge fund industry because of its stature.
Blackstone's hedge fund of funds invests client money with more than four dozen hedge funds, including SAC Capital, Pershing Square Capital Management, Elliott Management and DE Shaw & Co, according to people familiar with the private equity firm's asset management business.
The decision by Blackstone to redeem comes after the private equity and investment firm has stuck with Cohen throughout the course of the long-running investigation that has so far resulted in nine one-time employees of the firm being charged or implicated in insider trading schemes
The decision is now up to Cohen whether to keep operating in a reduced capacity ex-outside capital, or shut down altogether to remove any spotlight from his hedge fund which suddenly and "inexplicably" is dramatically underperforming the broader market. Should he choose the latter, the implications for market liquidity, already negligible at best, would be dire.
In which case the most important question is if and when the market will begin front-running the liquidation of Cohen's positions, of which there are some $18.6 billion in total, the top 30 of which are listed below:
Finally, anyone who still is unfamiliar with the epic story of Moby Steve and its inevitable denouement, the Vanity Fair's "The Hunt for Steve Cohen" is the best place to start.