Washington, D.C., Oct. 19, 2010 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged two hedge fund portfolio managers and their investment advisory businesses with defrauding investors in the Palisades Master Fund, L.P. by overvaluing illiquid fund assets they placed in a "side pocket." The SEC alleges that the hedge fund managers also stole investor money to pay for their own personal investments and made material misrepresentations in connection with a private securities transaction.
The SEC alleges that Paul T. Mannion, Jr., of Norcross, Ga., and Andrews S. Reckles of Milton, Ga., placed the Palisades hedge fund's investments in World Health Alternatives Inc. in a side pocket and valued those investments in a manner that was inconsistent with fund policy and contrary to an undisclosed internal assessment. A side pocket is a type of account that hedge funds use to separate particular investments that are typically illiquid from the remainder of the investments in the fund. The SEC's Asset Management Unit has been probing whether funds have overvalued assets in side pockets while charging investors higher fees based on those inflated values.
The SEC further alleges that Mannion and Reckles stole more than approximately $1.6 million worth of warrants belonging to the fund. They also improperly used investors' cash on at least two occasions to make personal investments, and they deceived a securities issuer by making false representations about their trading positions in order to participate in a private offering by the issuer.
"Mannion and Reckles put their own selfish interests ahead of Palisades' investors, treating the fund like their own personal bank account by stealing and improperly borrowing millions of dollars in fund assets," said Scott W. Friestad, Associate Director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement.
Robert B. Kaplan, Co-Chief of the SEC's Asset Management Unit, added, "Side pockets are not supposed to be a dumping ground for hedge fund managers to conceal overvalued assets. Mannion and Reckles deceived investors about the fund's performance and extracted excessive management fees based on the inflated asset values in a side pocket."
According to the SEC's complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Mannion and Reckles defrauded investors for at least a three-month period in 2005 through PEF Advisors LLC and PEF Advisors Ltd., two investment adviser entities they controlled. The fraudulent valuations of a convertible debenture, restricted stock, and bridge loans enabled Mannion and Reckles to report to investors misleadingly inflated net asset values, allowing them to take excessive management fees from the fund.
The SEC's complaint alleges that Mannion and Reckles stole more than one million warrants in World Health that belonged to the fund. At the time Mannion and Reckles exercised those warrants, they were worth $1.6 million. In July 2005, Mannion and Reckles took an undisclosed $2 million from the fund as an apparent short-term loan to finance their personal investments. They separately used approximately $13,000 from the fund to pay for services not rendered to the fund.
According to the SEC's complaint, Mannion and Reckles also made material misrepresentations in connection with a PIPE (private investment in public equity) offering conducted by Radyne ComStream Inc. in February 2004.
The SEC complaint charges defendants with violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and Sections 206(1) and 206(2) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. The Commission seeks injunctive relief, disgorgement of profits, prejudgment interest, and financial penalties.
The SEC's investigation was conducted by Adam S. Aderton and Julie M. Riewe of the Enforcement Division's Asset Management Unit under the leadership of co-chiefs Robert B. Kaplan and Bruce Karpati. The SEC's litigation effort will be led by David Williams.