WASHINGTON — US regulators sued hedge fund billionaire Philip Falcone for fraud Wednesday, accusing him of taking $113 million from a fund to pay his taxes.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said Falcone, who raked in billions betting against packaged mortgage securities ahead of the US real-estate crash, took clients’ money from funds run by his Harbinger Capital Partners to pay his personal taxes.
It also said Falcone illegally manipulated bond prices, traded preferential treatment to investors who backed a controversial board initiative, and broke restricted period trading rules in three initial public offerings to make money on short sales.
Also charged, for aiding in the tax misappropriation charge, was Harbinger’s former chief operating officer, Peter Jenson.
“Today’s charges read like the final exam in a graduate school course in how to operate a hedge fund unlawfully,” Robert Khuzami, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, said in a statement.
Falcone, 49, rose to prominence for his investments in credit-default swaps ahead of the US property crash in 2007, which allowed him to benefit heavily from the fall in value of sub-prime mortgage securities.
According to news reports, the SEC filed the charges after being unable to reach a settlement with Falcone in negotiations aimed at avoiding litigation.
Falcone told The Wall Street Journal he planned on “vigorously contesting” the charges.
The charges came after Falcone’s ambitious national high-speed wireless broadband venture LightSquared filed for bankruptcy last month, after the government refused access to the satellite signal spectrum needed for the business.
The company had raised several billion of dollars in capital and loans, including from Harbinger’s main investment fund.