Platinum Will Get SEC Docs While Criminal Case Advances
Law360, New York (July 10, 2017, 2:42 PM EDT) — A New York federal judge paused a civil enforcement case against the hedge fund Platinum Partners on Friday at the request of prosecutors while a related criminal case goes forward, rejecting complaints by several defendants that they would be deprived of the chance to learn about the government’s case against them.
As often happens, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s case against Platinum and executives accused of playing a role in a scheme to inflate the value of its investments was stayed for a criminal prosecution. All but two of the defendants asked for discovery to continue anyway, but U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry said even limited document exchanges would threaten the defendants’ right against self-incrimination.
Besides, the judge’s order said, federal prosecutors have committed to turning over materials they get from the SEC, which will allow the defendants to prepare for the civil case during the criminal case. So far, she noted, government lawyers said they’ve turned over 13.5 million documents, with more to come.
“In effect, the only discovery that will not be had in this civil matter is ‘testimonial’ type discovery, such as depositions, as proposed by [several of the] defendants,” the judge wrote. “Opposing defendants can hardly be heard to complain that they will be deprived of discovery in this civil matter.”
The pending decision was mentioned briefly at a hearing Friday where the main item was the judge’s decision to sack the SEC’s receiver, Bart Schwartz of Guidepost Solutions LLC, after concluding that he improperly transferred millions from an escrow account to fund an investment the feds called “risky.”
In the underlying case, prosecutors and the government litigators accuse Platinum of covering up a liquidity crisis at one of its investment funds and lying to lenders to Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC, a drilling company it owned, about the company’s health. Managers hid the hedge fund’s troubles until it filed for bankruptcy last year.
Kevin O’Brien of Ford O’Brien LLP, whose client Joseph Sanfilippo was a chief financial officer at one of Platinum’s funds, said Monday that the order was good news. Even though the case was stayed, he said, it was in some sense “only partial” because the defendants would still receive SEC documents.
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The case is Securities and Exchange Commission v. Platinum Management NY LLC et al., case number 1:16-cv-06848, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.