Paul Weiss Strikes Out for Contorinis, Scores for Citi at Second Circuit
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison had mixed fortunes Tuesday at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The firm couldn't reverse a ruling that a client convicted of insider trading must disgorge $7 million. But it did finish off a fraud case brought against longtime client Citigroup Inc. by a group of Norwegian investors represented by Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman.
Tuesday's loss for the firm came on behalf of Joseph Contorinis, an ex–Jefferies Paragon Fund money manager convicted of insider trading in 2010 and sentenced to six years in prison by U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan in Manhattan. A Paul Weiss team including Roberto Finzi and Theodore Wells Jr. argued that Sullivan unfairly ordered Contorinis to disgorge profit realized by the fund, rather than by Contorinis individually.
Siding with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the court emphatically rejected that argument in a six-page ruling, writing that an insider trader is "responsible for the profits he made for others, as well as for himself, through his fraudulent insider trades."
In the Citigroup case, the Second Circuit ruled that the bank didn't mislead a group of Norwegian plaintiffs, including four municipal governments and a brokerage fund, about the risks of investing in a municipal bond arbitrage fund. The ruling is a win for Paul Weiss attorneys John Baughman and Brad Karp against a Kasowitz Benson team led by Michael Fay.
Citi sponsored the arbitrage fund, known as TOB Capital Fund, prior to the financial crisis. In 2007 Citi wrote up a 27-page report on the investment opportunity and presented it to Terra Securities, a full-service Norwegian brokerage firm. Terra was something of a middleman, later pitching the investment to four Norwegian municipalities with a mandate to invest conservatively. After TOB Capital Fund tanked, the municipalities and Terra Securities jointly brought a fraud case against Citi in federal court in Manhattan.
U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero granted summary judgment to Citi in March 2013, ruling that Terra and the municipalities failed to prove the necessary element of reliance. Marrero found that Citi disclosed risks to Terra and that Terra failed to repeat these same warnings to the municipalities.
After de novo review, the Second Cicuit affirmed Tuesday in a five-page ruling. The Citi presentation "warned that investing in alternative investments is speculative and suitable only for sophisticated investors prepared to lose all of their investment," the court wrote. "Terra did not convey any of this information, among other cautions, to any plaintiff."
Kasowitz's Fay didn't immediately return a call seeking comment. We also didn't immediately hear back from Paul Weiss's Finzi.