Platinum Partners arrests are scant consolation for alleged victims

Sat Dec 24, 2016 12:00pm EST
 
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By Lawrence Delevingne

NEW YORK (Reuters) - When six executives of Platinum Partners, including founder Mark Nordlicht, were arrested on Monday on federal charges of running a more than $1 billion hedge fund fraud, people who had long alleged they were harmed by the New York-based firm felt some vindication.

But the possibility that each defendant might face prison terms has done little to soothe their continued anger over losses that may never be recouped.

One such person is Houston-based energy entrepreneur John Hoffman. In the charges, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleged what Hoffman had long believed - that Platinum, with the help of a seventh man also arrested, Jeffrey Shulse, had illegally profited from the failure of Hoffman's company, Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC.

Hoffman said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that he did not expect to recover anything and that his involvement with Platinum had cost him the company he founded and at least $500,000 in legal fees. He also described stress-related health problems and difficulty fundraising for a new energy venture.

Hoffman expressed anger that thousands of Gulf Coast-area families were stiffed: mostly the small businesses that were never paid for work on Black Elk's oil and gas drilling platforms before it went bankrupt amid lower oil prices and Platinum's alleged corporate cash grab.

All six Platinum executives pleaded not guilty and an attorney for Shulse told Reuters he plans to do the same. A spokesman for Platinum declined to comment for this article, and the firm has not offered any public comment. A person familiar with Platinum's thinking told Reuters in April that the firm always acted within the limits of the law despite its aggressive investment approach.

Launched in 2003, Platinum was known as a high-performing hedge fund manager that backed struggling companies and employed esoteric investment strategies such as litigation finance and high-interest consumer loans. (Reuters Special Report: reut.rs/1TRovwx)

The government charges on Monday included allegations of over-valuing assets and misleading clients on the health of the firm. The government demanded that the hedge fund return money that was allegedly illegally taken from clients and Black Elk bondholders, and pay related penalties.   Continued...

 
John Hoffman is pictured at a black elk platform in the Gulf of Mexico for a joint research project with LUMCON (university of Louisiana) in 2011. John Hoffman/Handout via REUTERS