Jonathan Stempel, 25 October 2010
NEW YORK, Oct 25 (Reuters) – A Connecticut hedge fund firm was sued on Monday by U.S. and state regulators for allegedly inflating the value of its holdings, allowing it to fraudulently collect millions of dollars of undeserved fees.
Southridge Capital Management LLC and its Chief Executive Stephen Hicks, 52, were sued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Connecticut Banking Commissioner Howard Pitkin over their management and financial reporting of several funds.
The SEC said Hicks falsely valued Southridge’s largest holding, speech recognition company Fonix Corp, at $30 million or more based almost entirely on a 2004 transaction in which Fonix bought two companies from an entity he controlled.
It also said Hicks raised $78.9 million over the 2004 to 2007 period after falsely promising investors that more than 75 percent of assets would be put in liquid investments or cash.
Connecticut alleged the overvaluing of fund assets allowed Ridgefield-based Southridge to fraudulently collect more than $26 million in fees from 2004 to 2007.
“This investment firm told lucrative lies,” Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said in a statement. “This kind of financial fraud harms investors, but also the entire economy.”
“Investors have a right to complete and accurate disclosure about the valuation, liquidity and use of their assets,” David Berger, director of the SEC regional office in Boston, said in a statement.