UPDATE 1-SEC rejects settlement with billionaire Phil Falcone

NEW YORK, July 19 Fri Jul 19, 2013 10:46am EDT

NEW YORK, July 19 (Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission voted on Thursday to reject a deal its enforcement division had struck with embattled hedge fund manager Philip Falcone and his hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners, according to a regulatory filing by Falcone's publicly traded company Harbinger Group Inc.

The SEC has not released any public explanation of the decision. SEC spokesman Kevin Callahan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Falcone announced in May he would pay $18 million to settle two SEC lawsuits accusing him of market manipulation, giving preferential treatment to certain investors and borrowing cash from his own fund to pay his personal taxes.

The suits were not filed against Harbinger Group Inc, the publicly traded investment company where Falcone is chairman and chief executive officer. They targeted his hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners and other related funds.

While the dollar amount of the settlement was relatively small, the deal would have required him to return money to his hedge fund investors and would have effectively prohibited him from starting a new hedge fund for the next two years.

It would, however, have permitted Falcone to remain CEO of the Harbinger Group.

Falcone's lawyer Matthew Dontzin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The rejection of the settlement comes as SEC Chair Mary Jo White has said she intends to be more aggressive in dealing with settlements and to take more cases to trial.