Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Archegos founder Hwang convicted at fraud trial over fund’s collapse

(Al Jazeera Media Network) Archegos Capital Management founder Sung Kook “Bill” Hwang has been convicted of fraud and other charges by a jury in a Manhattan federal court at a criminal trial in which prosecutors accused him of market manipulation ahead of the 2021 collapse of his $36-billion private investment firm.

On Wednesday, the jury, which began deliberations on Tuesday, found Hwang guilty on 10 of 11 criminal counts, and Patrick Halligan, his Archegos deputy and co-defendant, guilty on all three counts he faced. Hwang and Halligan sat flanked by their lawyers as the verdict was read by a soft-spoken foreperson.

United States District Judge Alvin Hellerstein set the sentencing for October 28. Both men will remain free on bail.

The Archegos meltdown sent shock waves across Wall Street and drew regulatory scrutiny on three continents. Prosecutors have said Hwang and Halligan lied to banks in order to obtain billions of dollars that they used to artificially pump up the stock prices of multiple publicly traded companies. The trial began in May.

Hwang, 60, had pleaded not guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy, three counts of fraud, and seven counts of market manipulation. Halligan, 47, had pleaded not guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy and two counts of fraud. Halligan was the chief financial officer at Archegos.

They now face maximum sentences of 20 years in prison on each charge for which they were convicted, though any sentence would likely be much lower and would be imposed by the judge based on a range of factors.

When the charges were brought in 2022, the US Department of Justice called the case an example of its commitment to hold accountable people who distort and defraud US financial markets.

Jurors heard closing arguments on Tuesday.

The trial centred on the implosion of Hwang’s family office Archegos, which inflicted $10 billion in losses at global banks and, according to prosecutors, caused more than $100 billion in shareholder losses at companies in its portfolio. Prosecutors said Hwang’s actions harmed US financial markets as well as ordinary investors, causing significant losses to banks, market participants, and Archegos employees.

Hwang secretly amassed outsized stakes in multiple companies without actually holding their stock, according to prosecutors. Hwang lied to banks about the size of the derivative positions of Archegos in order to borrow billions of dollars that he and his deputies then used to artificially inflate the underlying stocks, prosecutors said.

Halligan was accused by prosecutors of lying to banks and enabling the criminal scheme.

During closing arguments, Assistant US Attorney Andrew Thomas told jurors, “By 2021, the defendants’ lies and manipulation had ensnared nearly a dozen stocks and half of Wall Street in a $100-billion fraud, a fraud that came crashing down in a matter of days.”

Hwang’s defence team painted the indictment as the “most aggressive open-market manipulation case” ever brought by US prosecutors. Hwang’s attorney, Barry Berke, told jurors in his closing argument that prosecutors criminalized aggressive but legal trading methods.

Archegos’s head trader, William Tomita, and chief risk officer, Scott Becker, testified as prosecution witnesses after pleading guilty to related charges and agreeing to co-operate in the case.

According to the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which brought the case, Hwang’s positions eclipsed those of the companies’ largest investors, driving up stock prices. At its peak, prosecutors said Archegos had $36 billion in assets and $160 billion of exposure to equities.

When stock prices fell in March 2021, the banks demanded additional deposits, which Archegos could not make. The banks then sold the stocks backing Hwang’s swaps, wiping out an alleged $100 billion in value for shareholders and billions at the banks, including $5.5 billion for Credit Suisse, now part of UBS, and $2.9 billion for Nomura Holdings.



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