Prime Broker Has No Duty To Hedge Fund Clients, UBS Judge Rules

Jul 30 2008 | 12:01pm ET

Hedge fund service providers do not automatically have a fiduciary responsibility to its clients’ investors, a New York judge has ruled.

In dismissing a lawsuit against UBS from investors in defunct hedge fund Wood River Partners, Judge Charles Ramos said, “these plaintiffs lack standing.”

“Plaintiffs merely assert that, by virtue of UBS’s position as prime broker, clearing broker and custodian for the fund, UBS assumed a fiduciary duty to the plaintiffs, as limited partners. These allegations, without more, are not sufficient to establish the existence of a fiduciary relationship.”

Wood River founder John Whittier was sentenced to three years in prison for investing 85% of the fund’s capital in shares of California radio equipment maker Endwave Corp.—despite promising investors he wouldn’t invest more than 10% of the fund’s assets in any one security—as well as failing to make required filings with the Securities and Exchange Committee about its enormous Endwave holdings—Wood River owned 80% of the company.

According to the investors suing UBS, the Swiss bank failed to alert authorities or investors that Wood River had not made the required filings, or to withdraw as prime broker. Instead, the suit alleged that UBS manipulated the Endwave market “to suit its own ends,” causing “the value of the fund’s portfolio to decrease.”

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