Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Guilty Plea in New York Pension Fund Investigation

According to the WSJ Law Blog, Barrett Wissman entered a plea of guilty this morning to charges of paying kickbacks in exchange for state pension fund investments. The guilty plea was part of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's ongoing investigation into how state officials sold access to billions of dollars held by New York's state pension fund in return for kickbacks and other payments.

Earlier today Barrett Wissman, who managed Texas-based Hunt Financial Ventures Asset Management, which manages money for the Hunts, the prominent oil family, pleaded guilty to charges of paying kickbacks in exchange for state pension fund investments in HFV. Raymond B. Harding, a past Chair of the former New York State Liberal Party, was also criminally charged for being a “sham placement agent” for three pension fund investments when, allegedly, he was only being paid for doing political favors for state officials.

Harding allegedly obtained over $800,000 in illegal fees on state pension fund investments as a reward for opening up a New York State Assembly seat for then-Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s son and for over 30 years of prior political endorsements. Wissman, a classical music impresario will pay $12 million in penalties and forfeiture to the state over a period of three years. His guilty plea was first reported in today’s New York Times.

Last month, David J. Loglisci, the state’s former deputy comptroller and chief investment officer, and Henry “Hank” Morris, a top political adviser and chief fundraiser for former New York Comptroller Alan Hevesi, were charged in a 123-count criminal indictment. They have denied wrongdoing. Wissman, the hedge fund manager, is alleged to have paid kickbacks to Morris while working at Hunt.

The Securities and Exchange Commission also has brought a parallel civil case against the four men charged by Cuomo.

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