Platinum founder’s lawyers appeal order barring contact with witnesses
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Lawyers defending Platinum Partners founder Mark Nordlicht in a $1 billion fraud case have asked a U.S. appeals court to allow them to communicate with potential government witnesses, calling a judge’s order blocking them from doing so unconstitutional.
In a brief filed on Wednesday in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Nordlicht’s lawyer said U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry’s ban on communicating with potential government witnesses was “unprecedented” and “inconsistent with the most basic principles of impartiality and fairness.”
Without being allowed to contact potential witnesses or their lawyers, the brief said, Nordlicht’s lawyers could not prepare an adequate defense for him.
Prosecutors in December charged Nordlicht and six other executives at the hedge fund firm with running a $1 billion “Ponzi-like” fraud in which they overvalued assets and selectively paid some investors ahead of others. All pleaded not guilty.
The company’s funds have been placed under the control of a court-appointed receiver. Platinum was known for producing exceptionally high returns – about 17 percent annually in its largest fund.
Irizarry ordered the ban on witness contact at a hearing in Brooklyn federal court last Friday, saying she believed Nordlicht’s lawyers had tried to intimidate a potential witness. William Burck, a lawyer for Nordlicht, denied that.
A spokesman for U.S. prosecutors in Brooklyn declined to comment on Friday.
Irizarry’s order stemmed from a letter in which Nordlicht’s lawyers expressed their understanding that a former Platinum employee was a key government witness, identified in other court papers only as “CW-1.”
In the letter, addressed to the former employee’s lawyer, Nordlicht’s lawyers said they doubted an FBI agent’s claim that the witness told him Platinum was engaged in fraud. The agent relied on that statement in seeking a warrant to search Platinum’s office last year.
Nordlicht’s lawyers said if the employee really made such a self-incriminating statement, he must have reached a deal with prosecutors. His new employer would have been required to disclose such a deal to investors but never did, Nordlicht’s lawyers said.
In an Aug. 9 court filing, prosecutors called the letter an attempt to confirm that the former Platinum employee was CW-1, and a “veiled threat” to contact his subsequent employer.
In a filing the following day, Nordlicht’s lawyers said they wanted only to find out what CW-1 really told the FBI agent, so they could move to suppress evidence from the search if the agent’s account was wrong.
August 17, 2017
VIA WEB POSTING
United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
Case No.: 1:16-cv-06848-DLI-VMS
I am writing to you as the newly-appointed receiver of Platinum Credit Management, L.P.; Platinum Partners Credit Opportunities Master Fund LP; Platinum Partners Credit Opportunities Fund (TE) LLC; Platinum Partners Credit Opportunities Fund LLC; Platinum Partners Credit Opportunity Fund (BL) LLC; Platinum Liquid Opportunity Management (NY) LLC; and Platinum Partners Liquid Opportunity Fund (USA) L.P. (collectively, the “Receivership Entities” or “Platinum”) (collectively, “Platinum”). As Receiver, I am charged with, among other things, (i) taking control of and managing Platinum’s property and records (the “Receivership Assets”), (ii) taking actions as necessary and appropriate to preserve Receivership property, and (iii) taking actions as necessary and appropriate for the orderly liquidation of the Receivership Assets. The purpose of this letter is to advise you of the initial progress since my appointment and to explain how I intend to respond to your inquiries.
On June 23, 2017, the prior receiver, Bart M. Schwartz, resigned. As a result, by Order dated July 6, 2017, the Court appointed me as Receiver for the Receivership Entities. On July 21, 2017, the Court approved the retention of Otterbourg, P.C. as my legal counsel and Goldin Associates LLC as my financial advisor (collectively, the “Receivership Team”). Unless specifically modified, all previous court orders remain in place. A Second Amended Order Appointing Receiver, which sets forth the rights and responsibilities of the Receiver is expected to be entered in the near term. All documents, including a copy of the original Complaint for Injunctive and Other Relief against Platinum and its principals, Mark Nordlicht, David Levy, Daniel Small, Uri Landesman, Joseph Mann, Joseph Sanfilippo, and Jeffrey Shulse, filed by the Securities & Exchange Commission (“SEC”), Temporary Restraining Order, and Order Appointing Receiver can be viewed on this website.
Upon my appointment, the Receivership Team took immediate steps to secure and take control over Platinum’s accounts and books and records and implement cash management procedures. I also implemented procedures for the review and approval of all expenditures. The Receivership Team has prepared a 13-Week Cash Receipts and Disbursements Forecast, performed weekly actual vs. forecasted variance analyses, and is conducting daily and weekly reconciliations of Platinum’s cash and brokerage accounts.
The opening investment portfolio consisted of 90 investments in 69 entities. The assets of the Receivership Entities are diverse, but generally fall into three main asset categories: (i) life settlement investments (e.g., investments in life insurance policies), (ii) litigation finance investments, and (iii) “other” assets, which are primarily concentrated in the metals and mining and energy sectors, in companies that are mostly in the developmental stages. The nature of the Receivership Entities’ investments in the “other” assets varies. The Receivership Team is undertaking a thorough financial and legal analysis of the Receivership Entities’ position(s) in each investment, the rights of the Receivership Entity in the capital structure and pursuant to the operative documents, assessing the maintenance costs of the asset, and options available to the Receiver with respect to the monetization of the investment.
During the short time that I have been in control of the Receivership Assets, certain investments totaling approximately $8.6 million have been liquidated or are on the verge of liquidation. None of these assets has been liquidated in “fire sale” fashion. Indeed, one of them was monetized at par value. I believe that the life settlement and certain of the litigation finance investments are liquid and that there may be additional funds realized from their liquidation in the next several months.
As a general matter, however, I have not found support for the values reflected on Platinum’s books or for certain early indications of value in the Receivership. I look forward to working with Houlihan Lokey Financial Advisors, Inc., which I have retained to provide valuation services, and developing supportable valuation assessments.
I will report on our efforts by filing periodic reports with the Court. The reports will also be posted to this website set forth above. The most recent report: My Initial Status Report to the Court, which was filed on August 10, 2017, provides a more detailed review of the actions taken since my appointment and can be found on this website.
You can send general email inquiries to email@example.com. Although my staff and I will review all emails we receive, it is not practical for us to respond personally to all messages, not least because it would consume a significant amount of time. Accordingly, we will update the Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQ”)section on this website as needed to reflect your inquiries and our responses.
Thank you in advance for your cooperation and understanding.
Melanie L. Cyganowski
Learn more about the Settlement by downloading the documents below.
- Exhibits to the Complaint
- Order Appointing Receiver Schwartz
- The Receiver’s First Quarterly Status Report for the Period December 19, 2016 through March 31, 2017
- Securities and Exchange Commission’s Application for an Order to Show Cause for Entry of a Second Amended Order Appointing Receiver and Appointment of a Substitute Receiver
- Securities and Exchange Commission’s Memorandum in Support of Its Application for an Order to Show Cause for Entry of a Second Amended Order Appointing Receiver and Appointment of a Substitute Receiver
- Declaration of Melanie L. Cyganowski dated June 26, 2017
- Declaration of Neal Jacobson Pursuant to Local Rule 6.1(d) in Support of Application for an Order to Show Cause
- Facsimile Letter from Melanie L. Cyganowski to Judge Irizarry Regarding the Proposed Order Appointing Receiver
- Order Approving Retention of Otterbourg P.C.
- Order Approving Retention of Goldin Associates LLC
- The Receiver’s Initial Status Report to the Court
Platinum Partners Credit Opportunities Master Fund LP
Platinum Partners Credit Opportunities Fund (TE) LLC
Platinum Partners Credit Opportunities Fund LLC
Platinum Partners Credit Opportunity Fund (BL) LLC
Platinum Liquid Opportunity Management (NY) LLC
Platinum Partners Liquid Opportunity Fund (USA) L.P.
230 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10169
Attention: Adam C. Silverstein
Erik B. Weinick
350 Fifth Avenue
The Empire State Building
New York, NY 10118
Attention: Marc Kirschner
1:16-cr-00640-DLI-1 Mark Nordlicht
1:16-cr-00640-DLI-2 David Levy
1:16-cr-00640-DLI-3 Uri Landesman
1:16-cr-00640-DLI-4 Joseph Sanfilippo
1:16-cr-00640-DLI-5 Joseph Mann
1:16-cr-00640-DLI-6 Daniel Small
1:16-cr-00640-DLI-7 Jeffrey Shulse
Docket Items for the above cases can be located at the PACER portal for the Eastern District of New York, located here.
NYPOST – http://nypost.com/2017/04/26/ex-jefferies-trader-jesse-litvak-gets-2-years-in-prison-again/
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — There will be no stay in “Broker Raton” for this bond trader.
After four years and two trials, Jesse Litvak, a former Jefferies bond trader, was sentenced to two years in prison for lying about the price of bonds and ripping off clients — the same punishment he received nearly three years earlier for the same crimes.
In addition to the time behind bars, Connecticut federal judge Janet C. Hall imposed three years of probation and a $2 million fine, which was heftier than the $1.75 million fine he got when originally convicted.
The sentence came at the end of a four-and-a-half-hour court hearing that was hotly contested by Litvak’s team of lawyers. This time around, Litvak wanted 8 months of house arrest at his home in Boca Raton, Fla. — a town so chock full of traders it’s gotten the nickname “Broker Raton.”
Prosecutors, however, wanted to put Litvak in federal prison until 2028. In the end, it was Litvak’s own actions that did him in, Judge Hall said.
“Your victims would not have paid you what they paid you had they known the truth,” she said near the end of the marathon sentencing. “You did this to make more money.”
Litvak, 42, was at the center of a closely-watched Wall Street drama over lying to customers about the price of mortgage-backed securities — and one of the few traders to ever get caught.
His conviction and sentence is likely to have a ripple effect and lead to charges against other traders, and even whole banks, who were involved in the same practice.
The investment bank bigwig was once a rising star at Jefferies, generating major profits for an investment bank that has a notoriously rough-and-tumble culture.
But the boost came at too high a price: In 2013, Litvak was arrested on charges of making $2.25 million in illegal profit between 2009 and 2011 by puffing up the price of bonds he was selling — and ripping off investors in the process.
One of the most damning pieces of evidence against the trader to have come out during the January trial was a chat transcript that Litvak edited to make it look like one customer had paid more for bonds.
He then sent that faked conversation to a second trader at Invesco—in order to get that person to pay the higher price.
Litvak’s lawyer Dane Butswinkas, claimed during in January that the tactics were unsavory — he compared his client to a “used car salesman” — but that they weren’t illegal. Litvak’s clients included large, sophisticated investors like AllianceBernstein, which has nearly $500 billion in assets under management.
That argument ultimately failed to persuade a jury, and he was found guilty of a single count of securities fraud.
In deciding the guidelines to sentence Litvak, Judge Hall considered about $6.3 million worth of fraud over 76 transactions, all but one of which he wasn’t convicted on.
This isn’t the first time that Litvak has faced a prison sentence.
In 2014, the trader was originally found guilty of ten counts of securities fraud in the same 100-year old courthouse, and was sentenced to two years behind bars.
A Manhattan appeals court later tossed the jury’s verdict tossed when it came to light that evidence favorable to his defense shouldn’t have been excluded.
His behavior between trials ended up hurting his chance for leniency. Not only had he been caught sending text messages decrying “dumb juries” and declaring “victory,” but in 2015 he filed a suit against AllianceBernstein trader Michael Canter, who testified against him.
Judge Hall said that that suit in particular may have affected Canter’s demeanor on the stand, since during the second trial he was less enthusiastic and animated.
The below is an article that was posted in Valuewalk. The author asks some obvious and reasonable questions. Taken in a vacuum, one might wonder. However, when viewed through the looking glass of Platinum corporate savagery, the answers to those questions take on a whole new perspective.
Our comments are in red. – LM
Echo Therapeutics Inc (ECTE) – A Stock With No Revenue And A Short Catalyst
Platinum Partners is the largest investor in Echo Therapeutics (common, warrants, pref and debt). Below is the author’s take on the stock itself, but it raises some bigger questions regarding Platinum such as:
- why was platinum (a $1 billion fund) repeatedly investing in such a micro cap stock. Because as part of Platinum’s strategy, Platinum acts as the savior “institutional investor,” proceeds to increase value through name recognition, to take control, divest the company of its most valuable assets and equity and then to tank the stock and leave nothing for investors. Most likely in bankruptcy, Platinum repurchases the company at a substantial discount or holds onto the assets and sells them.
- How did Platinum value its investment in the warrants and preferred as there is no “market” for these illiquid investments. The value is an arbitrary number intended to guide other investors who view Platinum’s investment as a benchmark. As you know there were some questions about how Platinum valued some of its other investments. See Black Elk and Optionable, Echo Therapeutics and dozens if not hundreds of others. They all follow the same pattern of setting a benchmark, enticing other investors to increase capital thereby increasing value and then tanking the company by divesting it of its assets through a series of tender offers, mergers, special purpose vehicles or strategic partners. In Echo’s case it was a Chinese partner who made promises of Chinese FDA approval to appear legitimate.
- Did Platinum invest in ECTE while at the same time preventing Platinum investors from withdrawing from the fund (aka failing to honor redemption requests). Most likely or they created a class of shares in which they too were investors and then voted one class over the other thereby diluting the equity for the second class. That was followed by removing the value through a series of tenders, mergers, corporate takeovers, strategic partnerships…
Echo Therapeutics Inc (ECTE) – An Overvalued Stock
Echo Therapeutics (ECTE) has no revenue, is losing money, is facing delisting from the Nasdaq exchange, needs capital, recently filed a shelf offering (very late in the day on a Friday!) and faces competition from much larger industry competitors. According to the latest 10Q, the company had only $42k of unrestricted cash (not much cushion for a company that burns over $1mm per quarter) yet boasts an equity market cap of almost $35 million (using the 20 million shares, which includes convert pref,…most data sources like yahoo and Bloomberg use only 11 million shares outstanding). The company also expects to have negative cash flows for the foreseeable future as it funds its operating losses and capital expenditures. Echo Therapeutics is up 25% YTD and up 100% from its 52 week low. This was not the case initially. The software had value. The company was a Platinum target from start to finish.
To make it an even more attractive short candidate, consider that its largest shareholder is Platinum Partners, the fund that one of its executives has been accused of paying bribes to a union boss in exchange for an investment and the same fund that yesterday the FBI raided on reportedly as part of an investigation into Platinum’s valuation of its hard to value illiquid assets. It has also been reported that Platinum will be liquidating some or all of its funds (which makes the short even more interesting). Finally, it has been reported that Platinum failed to honor redemption requests from investors and that Platinum has defaulted on a $30 million loan from New Mountain Capital…in other words, Platinum appears to have some very serious problems and their future is uncertain. Platinum Partners gets involved to give the company seeming legitimacy, name recognition, institutional investor interest thereby enticing other investors.
Furthermore, Platinum’s investment (and ECTE’s market cap) are larger than it might initially appear as most of Platinum’s investment is in the form of convertible Preferred stock, so the number of shares outstanding is, theoretically larger than it appears on the cover of the 10q. In addition there are Blockers limiting the number of shares that the preferred can be converted into, so the ownership table in the proxy table understates Platinum’s true ownership, although the footnotes give more accurate information. Precisely why their pattern of corporate savagery works.
Echo Therapeutics is trying to develop a non-invasive (aka no needles), wireless, continuous glucose monitoring system. You can see the latest presentation at http://echotx.com/investors/investor-relations/ . The company has been developing its products for several years now but still has no commercially viable product. It probably doesn’t help that they spend more on SG&A than they do on R&D and that they compete with companies with significantly greater resources. ECTE does talk about getting approval from the Chinese FDA (we have our doubts) and the company does put out press releases on things that we believe are of limited real value. Promises of Chinese FDA approval was a ruse to add seeming legitimacy to its choice of strategic partner, also a Platinum related entity, in China. Meetings were held in China, thereby removing the US entrepreneurs and board members from earshot. To reiterate, the supposed FDA Approval in China was a ruse intended to make the entire scheme appear legitimate, reasonable and even value enhancing.
To avoid delisting from the Nasdaq, by the July 5, 2016 ECTE will need stockholders’ equity above $2.5 million (last quarter it was negative $4.7 million) and to provide projections that it can maintain that amount through June 30, 2017 (remember the company loses money and lost $2.6 million last quarter). ECTE could, theoretically meet the Nasdaq requirements by doing one of 2 things, neither of which would be good for current shareholders: 1) Raise equity through a recently filed (but not yet effective) $25 million shelf, although it is unclear if ECTE has enough time to pursue this option and who would buy the stock or 2) Have Platinum convert some/all of its preferred stock into common stock, although given Platinum’s other problems I’m not sure how focused they are on ECTE at the moment.
In addition to being ECTE’s largest shareholder, Platinum has the right to nominate one director to ECTE’s Board. Platinum’s designee is ECTE’s Chairman, Michael M. Goldberg. Goldberg’s previous biographies indicate he used to work for Platinum. However his employment by Platinum is not mentioned in the bio listed in ECTE’s SEC filings and we wonder why. (Note: Mr. Goldberg is also Board Director for ticker NAVB, another Platinum related company whose stock has cratered recently.) Each and every member of the Platinum team from start to finish is a Platinum person, friend, family member, financial colleague and co-conspirator. This is part of the same Platinum pattern. Platinum Controls all aspects of the entity it takes over. It is carefully planned, reflecting savvy, a clear understanding both of the markets and of investor behavior and a willingness to destroy the most vulnerable, those who began the venture and did not know enough to prevent Platinum from stepping in.
Besides Michael Goldberg, Echo Therapeutics has 2 other non-employee directors, one of whom is Mr. Goldberg’s first cousin. Couldn’t ECTE find a qualified director who was not related to an existing Board member? To be clear, we don’t know either of the Goldbergs nor are we suggesting they have done anything wrong. However, their ties to Platinum (and each other) are red flags for us. They should be huge red flags, warning signs a cause for running in the opposite direction.
Not surprisingly, ECTE has failed to attract much interest from institutional investors. If ECTE is such an interesting investment, why have so many sophisticated investors avoided it? Our opinion is that Platinum owns shares when the company is functioning with moderate returns, dumps those shares into the market, tanking the stock, which serves to make a company appear less financially viable. They then enter as the “legitimate institutional investor” at a lower market price, take over a majority of shares and proceed to acquire control in seemingly legal contracts and transactions then divest the company of its most valuable assets under the guise of trying to rebuild a company. In reality the entire path from start to finish is a well orchestrated ballet, with a chorus of additional dancers waiting at the sideline to step in and steal the show.
Based on the latest proxy as of April 2016 we estimate Platinum’s investment to consist of 783k common shares, 5.6 mm shares (theorectically convertible from preferred stock) and 2.8 million warrants. Clearly exiting its position will be challenging considering the company needs to sell shares too to raise cash and the trading volume is limited. No surprises. It was orchestrated in similar fashion in EVERY other deal that Platinum has entered (see Objectionable, Black Elk and others).
Echo Therapeutics is an overvalued stock where we believe both insiders and the company will need to sell large numbers of shares and we don’t see how either can occur at these prices. Echo Therapeutics can be saved if the Receiver in Bankruptcy sees the company through the looking glass of Platinum’s involvement and facilitates its recovery by denying Platinum and its partners any involvement.
“THE TRAIL OF PEOPLE WHO CALLED HIM THEIR BROTHER, THEIR BEST FRIEND”…
We have read dozens of comments about Huberfeld, Nordlicht and Landesman, amongst others, many of which accuse us of attacking their friends. We have one particular commenter who thinks we should leave this story alone, particularly where Huberfeld is concerned. He is a good person, she says. He has family. He did not go in intending to defraud his investors.
Yes. He did. As did the others.
She then said that if people lost their children’s college funds they were, in sum, foolish to have invested it all. Well, the same has been said of Madoff. In fact, in some interview somewhere Madoff is quoted as saying something like: If they were stupid enough to trust me with all of their money, they deserved to lose it.
We beg to differ.
Platinum’s partners are serial manipulators, preying on the greed of some, the weakness of others and the trust of their friends and families. You, the investors were taken for a ride. The same can be said of Madoff’s investors.
See the video below.
For further information:
Platinum Hedge Fund Executives Charged With $1 Billion Fraud