Cooperman, Omega settle SEC insider trading charges for $4.95 million

(Reuters) - Billionaire hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman and his firm Omega Advisors Inc agreed on Thursday to pay $4.95 million to settle the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s insider trading lawsuit against them.

Leon G. Cooperman, CEO of Omega Advisors, Inc., speaks on a panel at the annual Skybridge Alternatives Conference (SALT) in Las Vegas May 7, 2015. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

The accord resolves charges that Cooperman and Omega reaped about $4.09 million of profit in 2010 by trading in Atlas Pipeline Partners LP, a longstanding holding, based on confidential tips that Cooperman received from an Atlas executive about a planned asset sale.

Cooperman and Omega did not admit wrongdoing in agreeing to the settlement, which includes $2.76 million of fines and a requirement that an independent consultant monitor their trading activity for five years.

Court approval is required. Neither defendant was subjected to industry bans, which often accompany SEC settlements.

Daniel Kramer and Theodore Wells, two of the lawyers representing Cooperman and Omega, in a joint statement said they and their clients were pleased with the outcome.

The settlement with Cooperman, 74, resolves one of the highest-profile U.S. insider trading cases, which have cast shadows over well-known hedge fund managers like Galleon Group’s Raj Rajaratnam and SAC Capital Advisors’ Steven A. Cohen.

Omega has also suffered, with assets under management falling to about $3.6 billion as of March 31 from about $5.4 billion when the SEC sued in September.

On March 20, U.S. District Judge Juan Sanchez in Philadelphia ruled that the SEC could pursue claims that Cooperman “misappropriated” information despite the apparent absence of a prior agreement by him not to trade.

Cooperman’s lawyers had been preparing an appeal, faulting the SEC’s “aggressive and untested” theory that their client’s post-disclosure agreement, an oral promise, to keep information confidential could justify insider trading charges.

Thursday’s settlement ends that process, and avoids a trial that had been scheduled for Nov. 6.

Cooperman is worth $3 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

The case is SEC v Cooperman et al, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, No. 16-05043.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Jennifer Ablan in New York, additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; editing by Tom Brown