U.S. Markets

Steven Cohen, SAC must again face Fairfax short-selling lawsuit

(Reuters) - The billionaire Steven A. Cohen must again face a lawsuit accusing him and his former firm SAC Capital Advisors LP of conspiring with other hedge funds to spread false rumors about Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd FFX.TO to drive down its stock price.

Steven Cohen, Chairman and CEO of Point72 Asset Management, speaks at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., May 2, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

A three-judge panel of a New Jersey state appeals court on Thursday revived conspiracy, disparagement and other claims that had been dismissed in 2011 and 2012 against several defendants in the $8 billion lawsuit filed by Fairfax.

It upheld the dismissal of claims against two prominent hedge fund firms, Jim Chanos’ Kynikos Associates PC and Daniel Loeb’s Third Point LLC, as well as racketeering claims against all defendants, including Cohen and SAC.

Fairfax, a Toronto-based insurer, claimed it was a victim of a four-year “bear raid” in which hedge funds campaigned to manufacture bogus accounting claims and biased analyst research, and persuaded reporters to write negative stories.

Fairfax said this was designed to generate profits from short sales and ultimately “crush” or “kill” the company.

In a 156-page decision likening the 11-year-old case and its millions of pages of documents to a “fearsome” lion, Judge Clarkson Fisher said the trial judge was too quick to find no evidence of wrongful intent by SAC, whose trading “gave it financial goals aligned with the alleged conspiracy.”

Fisher also said SAC’s alleged trading strategy was “further illuminated” by the firm’s 2013 guilty plea to criminal insider trading and payment of $1.8 billion in related settlements.

Fairfax was also allowed to pursue some claims against hedge fund Exis Capital Management Inc and Morgan Keegan, a brokerage that issued research about the company and its New Jersey-based Crum & Forster commercial insurance unit.

But the court said the racketeering claims must be dismissed because they would not be permitted in New York, where most of the alleged misconduct occurred.

The court said it lacked personal jurisdiction over Kynikos, Chanos, Third Point and Loeb, all of New York.

After SAC pleaded guilty, Cohen converted that firm into a family office, Point72 Asset Management LP, which is based in Stamford, Connecticut.

Fairfax and its lawyers said they were reviewing the decision. A spokesman for Cohen declined to comment.

Exis’ lawyer Mark Werbner said in an email that the decision “guts” Fairfax’s claims, “and we are very pleased with that.”

Raymond James Financial Inc, which owns Morgan Keegan, declined to comment.

Stewart Aaron, a lawyer for Kynikos and Chanos, said they were “gratified by the court’s well-reasoned decision.” Third Point had no immediate comment.

The case is Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd et al v. SAC Capital Management LLC et al, Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, No. A-0963-12T1.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay and Leslie Adler