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New twist in white collar probe of noted investment fund head

For someone never formally charged -- much less accused -- of any act of criminal wrongdoing, SAC Capital Advisors founder and owner Steven A. Cohen continues to represent a laser-like target for federal authorities seeking to pin some type of culpability on him in an alleged white collar fraud enterprise.

Cohen’s hedge fund company, established slightly more than 20 years ago, has been a consistently stellar performer for investors. It has also been a strong focus of government probes into the insider trading of some of its employees, with Cohen, too, being closely investigated by both SEC investigators and federal prosecutors.

Notwithstanding those efforts, no evidence has pointed at Cohen that has led to either a civil lawsuit filing by the SEC or a federal indictment issued by the United States Department of Justice. Although a select few SAC underlings have been criminally prosecuted for insider trading, and SAC settled a civil lawsuit earlier this year with the SEC that resolved insider trading litigation against Cohen’s firm, Cohen himself has never been pointed to as having committed any crime.

That has not stopped continuing federal scrutiny of him personally, though, with the SEC last week filing an administrative action against him for failure to supervise ex-traders whose actions raised “red flags” that the agency alleges Cohen should have noted as their ultimate supervisor.

The filing represents what the New York Times calls the government’s “first direct shot” at Cohen. Although no criminal penalties potentially attach to the action, Cohen could ultimately face fines and a lifetime ban from the financial industry.

That is premature conjecture presently, though. A spokesperson for SAC says that the action lacks merit and that the SEC has ignored the company’s “extensive compliance policies and procedures.”

Source: New York Times, "S.E.C. charges are latest test for Steven Cohen," Peter Lattman and Ben Protess, July 19, 2013

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