Sunday, March 1, 2009

Pitt, CMU money managers arrested in fraud

Pitt, CMU money managers arrested in fraud

FBI says they misappropriated $500 million for lavish lifestyles

By Jonathan D. Silver

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Two East Coast investment managers sued for fraud by the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University misappropriated more than $500 million of investors' money to hide losses and fund a lavish lifestyle that included purchases of $80,000 collectible teddy bears, horses and rare books, federal authorities said yesterday.

As Pitt and Carnegie Mellon were busy trying to learn whether they will be able to recover any of their combined $114 million in investments through Westridge Capital Management, the FBI yesterday arrested the corporations' managers.

Paul Greenwood, 61, of North Salem, N.Y., and Stephen Walsh, 64, of Sands Point, N.Y., were charged in Manhattan -- by the same office prosecuting the Bernard L. Madoff fraud case -- with securities fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy.

Both men also were sued in civil court by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which alleged that the partners misappropriated more than $553 million and "fraudulently solicited" $1.3 billion from investors since 1996

"This is huge," said David Rosenfeld, associate regional director of the SEC's New York Regional Office. "This is a truly egregious fraud of immense proportions."

Lawyers for the defendants either could not be reached or had no comment.

Mr. Greenwood and Mr. Walsh, longtime associates and former co-owners of the New York Islanders hockey team, ran Westridge Capital Management and a number of affiliated funds and entities.

As late as this month, the partners appeared to be doing well. Mr. Greenwood told Pitt's assistant treasurer Jan. 21 that they had $2.8 billion under management -- though that number is now in question. And on Feb. 2, Pitt sent $5 million to be invested.

But in the course of less than three weeks, Westridge's mammoth portfolio imploded in what federal authorities called an investment scam meant to cover up trading losses and fund extravagant purchases by the partners.

An audit launched Feb. 5 by the National Futures Association proved key to uncovering the alleged deceit and apparently became the linchpin of the case federal prosecutors are building.

That audit came about in an indirect way. The association, a self-policing membership body, had taken action against a New York financier. That led to a man named Jack Reynolds, a manager of the Westridge Capital Management Fund in which CMU invested $49 million; and Mr. Reynolds led to Westridge.

"We just said we better take a look at Jack Reynolds and see what's happening, and that led us to Westridge and WCM, so it was a domino effect," said Larry Dyekman, an association spokesman. "We're just not sure we have the full picture yet."

Mr. Reynolds has not been charged by federal authorities, but he is named as a defendant in the lawsuit that was filed last week by Pitt and CMU.

"Greenwood and Walsh refused to answer any of our questions about where the money was or how much there was," Mr. Dyekman continued.

"This is still an ongoing investigation, and we can't really say at this point with any finality how much has been lost."

The federal criminal complaint traces the alleged illegal activity to at least 1996.

FBI Special Agent James C. Barnacle Jr. said Mr. Greenwood and Mr. Walsh used "manipulative and deceptive devices," lied and withheld information as part of a scheme to defraud investors and enrich themselves.

The complaint refers to a public state-sponsored university called "Investor 1" whose details match those given by Pitt in its lawsuit.

The SEC's Mr. Rosenfeld said the fraud hinged not so much on the partners' investment strategy but on the fact that they are believed to have simply spent other people's money on themselves.

"They took it. They promised the investors it would be invested. And instead of doing that they misappropriated it for their own use," Mr. Rosenfeld said.

Not only do federal authorities believe Mr. Greenwood and Mr. Walsh used new investors' funds to cover up prior losses in a classic Ponzi scheme, they used more than $160 million for personal expenses including:

• Rare books bought at auction;

• Steiff teddy bears purchased for up to $80,000 at auction houses including Sotheby's;

• A horse farm;

• Cars;

• A residence for Mr. Walsh's ex-wife, Janet Walsh, 53, of Florida, for at least $3 million;

• Money for Ms. Walsh and Mr. Greenwood's wife, Robin Greenwood, 57, both of whom are defendants in the SEC suit. More than $2 million was allegedly wired to their personal accounts by an unnamed employee of the partners.

"Defendants treated investor money -- some of which came from a public pension fund -- as their own piggy bank to lavish themselves with expensive gifts," said Stephen J. Obie, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission's acting director of enforcement.

It is not clear how Pitt and CMU got involved with Mr. Greenwood and Mr. Walsh. But there is at least one connection involving academia. The commission suit said Mr. Walsh represented to potential investors that he was a member of the University at Buffalo Foundation board and served on its investment committee.

Mr. Walsh is a 1966 graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo where he majored in political science.

He was a trustee of the University at Buffalo Foundation, but the foundation did not have any investments in Westridge or related firms.

Universities, charitable organizations, retirement and pension funds are among the investors who have done business with Mr. Greenwood and Mr. Walsh.

Among those investors are the Sacramento County Employees' Retirement System, the Iowa Public Employees' Retirement System and the North Dakota Retirement and Investment Office, which handles $4 billion in investments for teachers and public employees.

The North Dakota fund received about $20 million back from Westridge Capital Management, but has an undetermined amount still out in the market, said Steve Cochrane, executive director.

Mr. Cochrane said Westridge Capital was cooperative in returning what money it could by closing out their position and sending them the money.

"I dealt with them exclusively all these years," Mr. Cochrane said.

"They always seemed to be upfront and honest. I think they're as stunned and as victimized as we are, is my guess."

He said Westridge Capital had done an excellent job over the years.

The November financial statement indicated that the one-year return from Westridge Capital was a negative 11.87 percent, but the five-year annualized rate of return was a positive 8.36 percent.

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