Article: When the Feds Went After the Hedge-Fund Legend Steven A. Cohen

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When the Feds Went After the Hedge-Fund Legend Steven A. Cohen

Sheelah Kolhatkar, 09 January 2017

One day in early 2013, Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, met with his deputy, Richard Zabel, about one of the biggest cases of his career—a crackdown on insider trading in the hedge-fund industry. Although the financial crisis had receded, popular rage against Wall Street bankers and traders was still strong; most Americans had seen their incomes stagnate while the fortunes of the wealthiest continued to swell. For the previous few years, Bharara and the prosecutors who worked under him at the Southern District, along with investigators at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Securities and Exchange Commission, had been studying phone logs, wiretapping traders’ calls, and flipping witnesses, one after the other, as they worked their way deep into some of Wall Street’s most profitable hedge funds. Bharara was now considering a criminal indictment of Steven A. Cohen, the founder of a fourteen-billion-dollar hedge fund called S.A.C. Capital Advisors.

Cohen was a captivating figure on Wall Street. He was not the sort of investor who, like Warren Buffett, took a large stake in a company and held it for years, immersing himself in how the business worked. He was a short-term speculator, who had built a vast personal fortune by placing high-volume bets on small movements in stock prices; he was often driven by earnings announcements and other such events, and maintained high returns, against the odds, year after year. He was short and thick, had a fierce mind and a quick temper, and he lived in a thirty-five-thousand-square-foot mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut. A passionate art collector, he would spend a hundred million dollars or more on a single work.

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