Sources say the Securities and Exchange Commission-SEC is not expected to file civil charges against the Illinois-based hedge fund
The Securities and Exchange Commission appears to be concluding its investigation of Magnetar, a hedge fund that played a pivotal role in the disastrous mortgage bond market that helped fuel the financial crisis. Citing anonymous sources, the Wall Street Journal reported this morning that SEC staff had decided not to recommend filing civil charges against the Illinois-based hedge fund.
The SEC declined to comment to ProPublica. Magnetar did not respond to requests for comment.
As we detailed in 2010, Magnetar worked with investment banks to build mortgage-backed securities called collateralized debt obligations – CDOs – that the hedge fund also bet against.
Magnetar would buy the riskiest part of the CDO, which gave it influence in picking which bonds would be included in the CDO. In turn, the hedge fund pushed bonds that would make the investment more likely to fail.
Magnetar has always denied that it had a strategy of betting against the deals it helped created. The hedge fund says it was “market neutral,” meaning it designed a deal where it would profit whether housing rose or fell.
In less than two years Magnetar helped create more than $40 billion worth of CDOs.
What made Magnetar an elusive candidate for enforcement action is that it never marketed these CDOs to outside investors. All it did was convince banks to construct the CDOs, for which the banks received millions in fees. The banks in turn sold the CDOs to investors who were not aware that a hedge fund was betting against deals it had helped create.
To date, most of the SEC’s enforcement over CDOs has focused primarily on banks. It appears those cases have still not concluded. In a recent securities filing, Bank of America revealed that it is still under investigation by the SEC over a CDO, created by Merrill Lynch, which Bank of America purchased in 2009.
As we have previously noted, Magnetar had a particularly active role in the creation of that CDO, called Norma. The hedge fund invested less than $50 million in Norma. Magnetar also placed a $600 million bet against the deal. Norma was initially worth $1.5 billion but collapsed, costing investors hundreds of millions of dollars. Magnetar has never disclosed what it made from the deal.
The CIC upheld the decision of the PIO and FAA to provide information after severing part under Section 10 of the RTI Act. This is 152nd in a series of important judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that can be used or quoted in an RTI application
The Central Information Commission (CIC), while disposing an appeal, upheld the decision of the Public Information Officer (CPIO) and First Appellate Authority (FAA) at Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Dehradun, to provide the information after severing parts related with details of accused persons related with Uttarakhand police sub-inspectors (PI) recruitment scam.
While giving this judgement on 29 June 2011, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, “...the information, which has been severed, was not of interest to the appellant. There seems to be reasonable ground based on which, the PIO has severed certain information since it appears to be exempted under Section 8(1)(h) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.”
Badi Mukhani (Haldwani, Nainital, Uttarakhand) resident Jitendra Joshi, on 12 April 2010, sought from the PIO copy of the SP report of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) related with the SI Recruitment Scam in Uttarakhand. Joshi had appeared for the Uttarakhand Police Recruitment Examination 2002 and at the time of hearing, his appeal was pending before the High Court. He asked copy of the SP report of the CBI so that he could get some relief in the delay in the justice-delivery system.
In his reply, the PIO stated, "Can be made available a copy of SP's report of RC0072003A0018 (SI Recruitment Scam) after severing para 9(c) to 9(e) of the said report u/s 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act, 2005 as the disclosure of said paragraphs would impede the process of prosecution of offenders. But this would be done only on the payment of requisite fees viz. 36 pages X Rs2= Rs72"
Not satisfied with the PIO's reply, Joshi, the applicant filed his first appeal. He said, "...the information provided by the PIO is incomplete. This is with the intention to hide the corruption perpetuated by the Uttarakhand Government because the information sought viz. the SP Report, if revealed would expose the concerned people associated with the scam."
In his order, the FAA upheld that the information provided by the PIO was adequate.
Joshi then approached the CIC with his second appeal. In the appeal he stated, "The PIO and the FAA have provided the incomplete information with respect to the written examination and have tried to conceal rest of the information with respect to the interview, certificate and reservation. If it was unlawful to reveal the information of the S.P. Report, then the respondents should not have revealed even the partial information under the same. By not providing certain parts of the report, it is so apparent that a huge scam is being tried to be covered up."
During the hearing, the PIO stated that the information available in paras 09C to 09E in the said report which have been severed as per Section 10 of the RTI Act have details about accused persons and the explanations and defense of the accused persons and disclosing this is likely to impact the prosecution of offenders since the charges are being framed presently.
Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, said, "It appears that the information which has been severed was not of interest to the appellant and there appears to be reasonable ground based on which the PIO has severed certain information since it appears to be exempted under Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act."
While disposing the appeal, the Bench said the PIO had provided the information, which could be revealed after severing part of the information as per Section 10 of the RTI Act.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SM/A/2011/000316/SG/13161
Appeal No. CIC/SM/A/2011/000316/SG
Appellant : Jitendra Joshi
Post- Badi Mukhani
Haldwani (Nainital), Uttarakhand
Respondent : Nilabh Kishore,
Public Information Officer & SP
Special Police Establishment
CBI Complex, Indira Nagar,
Scary anecdotal evidence, poor performance, opaque disclosure standards and candid responses...