FrontPoint Partner’s Skowron Charged With Securities Fraud

Wednesday, 13 Apr 2011 12:04 AM

 

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FrontPoint Partners LLC’s Chip Skowron, a co-portfolio manager, surrendered to the FBI this morning and faces conspiracy and securities-fraud charges, the U.S said.

Today’s arrest of Skowron, 41, of Greenwich, Connecticut, is linked to the case brought in November by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission against Dr. Yves Benhamou, a French doctor and former adviser to Human Genome.

The U.S. alleged Benhamou shared insider information with a co-conspirator at a hedge fund, allowing that fund to avoid about $30 million in losses. The U.S. today identified Skowron and FrontPoint as the hedge fund that Benhamou tipped.

Benhamou, of France, was charged Nov. 2 by Bharara’s office with insider-trading. The U.S. said Benhamou, whose expertise is hepatitis and liver diseases, held dual roles. He acted as a paid consultant to at least six hedge funds while working as an adviser to Human Genome, a developer of gene-based drugs, and served on its steering committee for Albuferon trials, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleged in a parallel lawsuit also filed in federal court in New York.

‘Cooperating Fully’

FrontPoint, which is being spun out of Morgan Stanley, has said previously in an emailed statement that it’s “cooperating fully” with the U.S. probe. Skowron was placed on leave pending the outcome of the probe, the firm said.

Benhamou pleaded guilty April 11 before U.S. District Court Judge George Daniels, said Ellen Davis, a spokeswoman for Bharara’s office. Benhamou has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, according to a plea agreement unsealed today.

“Dr. Benhamou has acknowledged his serious mistakes in judgment and intends to live up to his obligations under his cooperation agreement,” David M. Zornow, his lawyer, said in a statement. “Dr. Benhamou’s conduct in this instance must fairly be considered in the overall context of his extraordinary contributions to his patients and to medical science.”

Benhamou is no longer a Human Genome consultant and the company has “cooperated fully” with the SEC, Jerry Parrot, a company spokesman, said.

“By profiting from his sensitive position and providing the hedge fund an unfair advantage, Benhamou undermined the integrity of the securities market and sold out his employer,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement at the time Benhamou was charged.

3.3 Million Shares

FrontPoint held 3.3 million shares of Human Genome at the end of the fourth quarter of 2007, valued at $34.3 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News. It held none at the end of the following quarter. Human Genome fell 44 percent on Jan. 23, 2008, after saying it will change the dosing of its experimental hepatitis-C drug Albuferon in patient tests.

Before joining FrontPoint, Skowron was an analyst at hedge funds Millennium Partners LLC in New York and SAC Capital Advisors LLC in Stamford, Connecticut, according to FrontPoint’s marketing documents dated September. Skowron graduated with a Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology from Yale University, according to the documents.

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