SAC Speaks With Staff On Insider Case

Nov 30 2012 | 12:24pm ET

A day after moving to reassure investors about the insider-trading case enveloping the firm, SAC Capital Advisors sought to placate concerns among its employees.

The $14 billion hedge fund held a conference call for its roughly 1,000 employees yesterday to discuss the arrest of former portfolio manager Mathew Martoma and the likely fraud lawsuit the firm is facing. SAC received a Wells notice from the Securities and Exchange Commission last week, on the day Martoma was arrested, indicating that the regulator plans to take action against the firm.

The call with employees covered much of the same ground as Wednesday's call with investors; on that call, founder Steven Cohen and firm president Tom Conheeney said that Cohen acted appropriately when he accepted Martoma's advice on two pharmaceutical stocks and defended SAC's "culture of compliance." They also emphasized that the Wells notice did not name Cohen personally, although media reports indicate that the SEC hopes to extend the charges to him.

SAC has said that it is confident that neither it nor Cohen have done anything wrong.

The SEC isn't the only authority with an eye on Cohen. In fact, the lawsuit promised by the Wells notice could be months away, as the SEC gives the U.S. Justice Department time to build a possible criminal case against Cohen. The government has already sought the cooperation of Martoma, who has thus far declined.

Martoma was accused last week of earning SAC $276 million trading on confidential information about Alzheimer's drug tests.

The SEC has spoken to Cohen about Martoma's trades, which took place between 2006 and 2008. The agency deposed him earlier this year, but Cohen offered only vague recollections of a 2008 phone call he had with Martoma in which Martoma told him he was "no longer comfortable" with SAC's large positions in Elan Corp. and Wyeth LLC. Martoma allegedly sought the meeting with Cohen after learning that the drug tests had not gone well.

At least two other SAC employees were deposed by the SEC in the Martoma case, the Financial Times reports, including trading chief Phillipp Villhauer. According to court documents, Villhauer executed the trades that say SAC exit its huge Elan position in 2008, using algorithms and dark pools to hide the identity of the seller. Villhauer has not been accused of any wrongdoing.


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