It’s been a bad week for big Democratic donors. First Jon Corzine, one of Barack Obama’s main bundlers and his liaison to Wall Street, told Congress on Thursday that he had no idea that the firm he ran had somehow lost $1.2 billion in customer money attempting to cover losses from Corzine’s bets on European sovereign debt. Last night, another Wall Street figure in Democratic donor circles got news that the SEC may open a civil-fraud probe based on his operation of a hedge fund and the favorable treatment given to yet another Democrat-linked Wall Street firm:
Hedge-fund manager Philip Falcone was threatened with possible civil-fraud charges from the top U.S. securities regulator, the latest in a series of setbacks that have buffeted the investor since he rocketed to stardom in 2007.
Mr. Falcone and his firm, Harbinger Capital Partners LLC, received so-called Wells notices from the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to a regulatory filing Friday, an indication that charges are likely.
Among the issues the SEC has explored is whether Harbinger agreed to allow some investors, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., to cash out of their holdings while barring other clients from withdrawing their money, according to people familiar with the matter.
If the name Philip Falcone sounds familiar, it should be — considering that I wrote about his LightSquared firm this morning. This probe is separate from the issues surrounding LightSquared, however, but it involves more than just the $50 million Falcone apparently allowed Goldman Sachs to withdraw while preventing other investors from cashing out of Harbinger. They have already begun probing a loan Falcone took from the Harbinger fund, as well as “market manipulation,” but it’s apparently the Goldman Sachs withdrawal that has the SEC most exercised at the moment.
The news has one Senator asking for a more in-depth look at LightSquared’s connections to regulators:
LightSquared also faces problems in Congress, where Republicans have accused the Obama administration of favoring the company, a charge the White House denies.
On Friday, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said that the disclosure of the SEC’s Wells notice underscores the need for more information about relationships between LightSquared and telecommunications regulators.
Give the SEC at least one cheer for proceeding with the probe even with those connections; Corzine had more luck in using his clout to keep regulators off of his back. Clearly, Congress needs to take a very, very close look at LightSquared and Falcone’s connections to the administration before taxpayer dollars flow into an enterprise that so far looks like a bust on the merits.