Hedge Funds

Ex-SAC trader points to Cohen testimony in insider trading case

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A former SAC Capital Advisors trader, set to go on trial next month on insider trading charges, wants to cite in court some 2012 testimony given by the hedge fund's founder Steven Cohen, claiming it rebuts the government's case.

Mathew Martoma, the ex-SAC portfolio manager is scheduled for trial on Jan. 6. He filed court papers late Friday seeking to use testimony given by Cohen to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in May 2012.

Martoma contends the testimony will show he had nothing to do with decisions to trade in Elan and Wyeth in 2008.

Filed in U.S. District Court in New York, the Martoma documents showed how extensively investigators questioned Cohen about the trading at the center of the case against Martoma, who was charged in November 2012 with insider trading in what is said to be the most lucrative such U.S. scheme ever.

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Prosecutors contend Martoma got nonpublic information from a physician about a clinical trial of an Alzheimer's drug, and then used that information to help CR Intrinsic Investors, an SAC division, avoid $276 million in losses through the sale of securities for Elan and Wyeth, now owned by Pfizer.

Martoma's case will go before a jury not long after the expected conclusion of a trial in New York of another SAC portfolio manager, Michael Steinberg. He is accused of trading in Dell Inc and Nvidia Corp, based on inside information.

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Once a $14 billion hedge fund, SAC Capital agreed last month to pay $1.2 billion and plead guilty to fraud charges as part of the insider trading probe. Cohen, who has not been criminally charged, faces an SEC administrative action accusing him of failing to supervise Martoma and Steinberg and prevent insider trading.

Wave of pre-trial motions

The excerpts of Cohen's testimony came in a wave of pre-trial motions by Martoma's lawyers on Friday night, seeking to limit what is presented at trial. Martoma wants to exclude evidence about SAC's sale of Wyeth stock and about the way the hedge fund sold Elan and Wyeth securities.

Alternatively, Martoma's lawyers are seeking to introduce Cohen's SEC testimony at trial. Cohen is expected to assert his constitutional rights and not be available to testify at trial, Martoma's lawyers said.

Jonathan Gasthalter, a spokesman for SAC, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

In his testimony, Cohen told SEC investigators that he made the decision to sell Wyeth securities after consulting with Wayne Holman, a former SAC trader who went on to establish his own hedge fund, Ridgeback Capital Management.

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Cohen testified that he had considered Holman "a great healthcare investor recommendations are very important to me." Holman had a $20 million consulting deal with SAC that Cohen said he approved because "he's worth it."

Martoma's lawyers contend the testimony makes clear that Holman, rather than their client, was the reason Cohen decided to sell SAC's Wyeth position in 2008. The week of the trade, Cohen said he spoke with Holman "at some point and he was telling me he was selling his Wyeth."

A lawyer for Holman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

Elan and Wyeth

In the court filings, Martoma's lawyers also contend that Cohen's testimony clearly establishes that Martoma had nothing to do with the actual trading strategies used by SAC in trading Wyeth and Elan. In his testimony, Cohen said he had decided to short Elan to hedge SAC's long exposure in Wyeth.

"Generally, what I remember was selling Wyeth and then deciding to hedge out my exposure in Wyeth by shorting Elan," Cohen testified. "It was sort of imperfect. I was estimating the ratio that I would need to sell one against the other, but that's what I did."

—By Reuters.