January 9, 2017 / 6:00 AM / 3 years ago

Ex-Visium hedge fund manager to face trial on U.S. fraud charges

NEW YORK, Jan 9 (Reuters) - A former portfolio manager at Visium Asset Management LP is scheduled to face trial on U.S. charges stemming from an investigation that led to the New York-based hedge fund’s closure last year.

Jury selection is set to begin on Wednesday in Manhattan federal court in the case of Stefan Lumiere, Visium founder Jacob Gottlieb’s former brother-in-law, who is accused of engaging in a scheme to falsely inflate the value of securities in a bond fund.

The trial follows a criminal probe that prompted the $8 billion investment firm’s wind-down and charges against three others, including Sanjay Valvani, a Visium portfolio manager who committed suicide in June after being accused of insider trading.

According to court papers, Lumiere, 46, served as the portfolio manager for a fund called Visium Credit Opportunities Fund from May 2009 to April 2013.

From 2011 to 2013, prosecutors said, Lumiere and others, including portfolio manager Christopher Plaford, schemed to defraud investors by mismarking the value of securities held by the fund, which invested in debt issued by healthcare companies.

Prosecutors said the practices caused the fund’s net asset value to be overstated by tens of millions of dollars each month and deceived investors into believing the bonds were relatively liquid, when they were not.

Lumiere, who was arrested in June, has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, securities fraud and wire fraud charges.

His lawyers are expected at trial to challenge prosecutors’ claims that the securities’ prices were mismarked and unreasonable, according to court papers.

At trial, prosecutors are likely to call as a cooperating witnesses Plaford, who pleaded guilty in June in connection with the mismarking scheme and the separate insider trading matter.

Prosecutors are also expected to call a former Visium trader who has been cooperating with authorities since 2013 and covertly recorded Lumiere.

The cooperating witness has been helping authorities in hopes of recovering a monetary reward, according to court papers. While not named in court papers, the witness is Jason Thorell, a person familiar with the matter said.

Lumiere’s lawyers say the details of the potential reward indicates he is seeking a recovery from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which can award whistleblowers up to 30 percent of any money it collects in a case.

The SEC declined comment. Thorell did not respond to a request for comment.

The case is U.S. v. Lumiere, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-cr-00483. (Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Steve Orlofsky)

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