Billionaire hedge fund manager Steven Cohen lost a bid Monday to dodge fraud claims brought by his former wife related to their 1990 divorce. A federal judge in Manhattan let Patricia Cohen’s common law fraud and breach of fiduciary duty claims proceed, but he knocked out RICO claims against Cohen, his brother and an ex–business partner.
U.S. District Judge William Pauley III also had barbs aplenty for both sides in Monday’s 20-page decision. “As the caption of this case suggests, this is a family dispute,” he wrote. “The only thing that distinguishes it from countless others is the seemingly inexhaustible legal resources that each side has brought to bear.”
“But though treble damages are a tempting way to spice things up, civil RICO and marriage do not go together like a horse and carriage,” Pauley added.
Patricia Cohen originally filed suit in 2009 against her ex-husband, the founder of prominent hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors. SAC has been at the center of a major insider trading probe and pleaded guilty to securities fraud in November, agreeing to pay $1.2 billion in penalties. That came on top of $616 million the hedge fund paid to settle civil charges brought by the the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC also filed a civil case against Steven Cohen last July, accusing him of failure to supervise SAC employees. Cohen has yet to be charged criminally, though others at SAC have faced charges.
The case before Judge Pauley centers on a $5.5 million real estate settlement that Steven reached back in 1987. Patricia alleged that her ex-husband failed to include the settlement in financial statements related to the couple’s separation agreement and conspired to hide it from her.
Former U.S. District Judge Richard Holwell originally tossed the case in March 2011, finding the claims time-barred and unsupported. But as we previously reported, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit gave Patricia’s case new life last April.
Patricia Cohen’s lawyers, Kevin Roddy at Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer and solo practitioner Joshua Dratel, filed an amended complaint in the case in September, renewing Patricia’s claims that Steven conspired with his brother and an ex–business partner to hide the value of the real estate settlement from her while the Cohens’ divorce was pending.
Pointing out that the Cohens’ legal battles have now lasted twice as long as their marriage, Pauley wrote in Monday’s decision that “this is a case to restore faith in the old-fashioned idea that divorce is something that lasts forever.” He dismissed Patricia Cohen’s RICO claims but allowed her common law fraud and breach of fiduciary duty claims against Steven to proceed, along with aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty claims against Steven’s brother Donald Cohen.
“We are grateful for the judge’s decision, and we look forward to the case going forward,” Roddy told us Monday. By our count, he and Dratel are at least the fourth set of lawyers Patricia Cohen has hired to handle the case. Howard Foster of Foster PC argued the appeal at the Second Circuit. Patricia Cohen had previously hired prominent RICO lawyer Paul Batista and whistleblower attorney Gaytri Kachroo. According to the docket, they have since withdrawn.
Martin Klotz of Willkie, Farr & Gallagher represents Steven Cohen. He pointed us to a spokesman for the embattled billionaire, who said Cohen was pleased that the judge dismissed his ex-wife’s racketeering claims and that he would fight her “specious” remaining allegations.