Wood River Founder Pleads Guilty To $88M Fraud

May 31 2007 | 10:34am ET

Former prominent investment banker John Whittier pleaded guilty yesterday to defrauding investors in his hedge fund of $88 million.

Whittier acknowledged that he failed to disclose his Wood River Capital Management’s 80% stake in radio equipment maker Endwave Corp.—an investment that comprised some 85% of Wood River’s $127 million portfolio—to the Securities and Exchange Commission, as required. Whittier’s lawyer said after the hearing that Whittier had also settled the SEC’s charges against him, but declined to give details.

“I knew at the time that what I was doing was wrong,” Whittier told the court. “I have embarrassed myself and my family and caused harm to my investors. I am sincerely remorseful.”

Embarrassment is the least of Whitter’s problems: He faces up to 19½ years in the clink when he is sentenced Oct. 15 for securities fraud, failing to file required stock holding disclosures and making false filings. He’ll also have to forfeit some $5.5 million.

Investors became concerned about the San Francisco- and Ketchum, Idaho-based fund run by the former Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette media and telecom research group when Wood River could not meet redemption requests in late 2004. Some investors are now suing Wood River’s one-time prime broker, UBS, for failing to report Whittier’s malfeasance and for profiting on it by creating a short market for Endwave shares.

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