Monaco Court Tosses Suit Against IKOS, Ambrosiadou

Jul 25 2011 | 11:20am ET

A Monaco court has thrown out a lawsuit by an accountant claiming €5 million for wrongful dismissal and psychological damage from the multi-billion-dollar hedge fund company IKOS and its founder Elena Ambrosiadou, one of the world's richest women.

Nathalie Pratico, 45, had filed suit against IKOS—the quant fund founded by Ambrosiadau; and her former employer Cochlias—a Monaco company that administered Ambrosiadou’s family office and was also used by Ambrosiadau husband, Martin Coward, who served as chief investment officer of IKOS; and Ambrosiadou herself.

Pratico’s suit charged that she was unfairly dismissed by Ambrosiadou in 2009, after siding with Coward in the couple’s nasty divorce. (She went on to find work with Coward in his new venture, a Monaco company called Flot SAM.) Pratico claimed she’d been harassed and spied on by Ambrosiadou and that “the psychological harm associated both with the slanderous accusations and with this harassment is considerable.”

Ambrosiadou, on the other hand, accused Pratico of “hoarding confidential data” from IKOS and leaking it to Coward for his new venture.

The Monaco court sided with Ambrosiadou: on July 14, it rejected Pratico’s demand for €5 million, saying, in part: “…On account of the highly contentious context of the separation of the Ambrosiadou-Coward spouses, the very significant financial interests at stake and the troubling actions of Mrs. Nathalie Pratico during and after the termination of her contract of employment, the numerous proceedings conducted by Cochlias and IKOS against her do not appear to characterize an abuse of the law constituting harassment.”

The lawsuit is just one of many in which IKOS is currently embroiled, including an action against Coward himself. The situation has also given rise to criminal investigations in Cyprus (where IKOS is based) and Monaco. These investigations, according to the judges who issued the latest decision, are still “at an early stage.”

Ambrosiadou, with Coward at her side, founded the wildly successful quant fund IKOS in 1992 with $600,000. At its height in 2007, IKOS managed roughly $3.5 billion, but by 2008 the couple’s business and personal relationships were on the rocks and in 2010, Coward left the firm, amid accusations that Ambrosiadou had hired the corporate intelligence firm Kroll to spy on him.

IKOS’ AUM has shrunk to an estimated $2.5 billion, but the fund recently reported 35% annual growth for the fiscal year that ended in April 2011.

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