Och-Ziff reaches $29 million shareholder accord over Africa bribery probes

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC OZM.N has reached a $28.75 million class-action settlement with shareholders who said the company misled them about U.S. probes into its involvement in alleged bribery in five African countries.

The settlement with one of the largest publicly-traded hedge fund companies was made public on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan and requires court approval.

It followed Och-Ziff’s $412 million settlement in Sept. 2016 of a U.S. Department of Justice criminal probe, and came 18 days after U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken said the investors could sue the New York-based company as a group.

The defendants also included Chief Executive Daniel Och and former Chief Financial Officer Joel Frank. They denied wrongdoing in agreeing to settle.

An Och-Ziff spokesman declined to comment. Och-Ziff now has $32.8 billion of assets under management.

Investors accused Och-Ziff of inflating its stock price by concealing Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission probes that uncovered bribes to government officials in Libya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Guinea and Niger.

Och-Ziff entered a deferred prosecution agreement and its OZ Africa Management unit pleaded guilty to a criminal conspiracy charge as part of the Justice Department settlement.

Och, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc GS.N trader, agreed to pay $2.2 million at the time to settle a SEC civil recordkeeping charge, without admitting wrongdoing.

In July, another federal judge dismissed a separate SEC case accusing former Och-Ziff executives Michael Cohen and Vanja Baros of using bribes to win business in Africa.

Tuesday’s settlement covers investors led by Ralph Langstadt and Julie Lemond, who bought Och-Ziff securities from Feb. 9, 2012 to Aug. 22, 2014. They could recover more than 41 cents per share, before legal fees are deducted.

Och-Ziff had set aside $10 million for a possible settlement in the second quarter.

Its shares were up 1 cent at $1.44 in Tuesday afternoon trading. They have fallen more than 90 percent since early 2014.

The case is Menaldi v. Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 14-03251.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Bill Berkrot