The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged a Miami-based hedge fund adviser for deceiving investors about whether its executives had personally invested in a Latin America-focused hedge fund.
The SEC’s investigation found that Quantek Asset Management LLC made various misrepresentations about fund managers having “skin in the game” along with investors in the USD1 billion Quantek Opportunity Fund. In fact, Quantek’s executives never invested their own money in the fund. The SEC’s investigation also found that Quantek misled investors about the investment process of the funds it managed as well as certain related-party transactions involving its lead executive Javier Guerra and its former parent company Bulltick Capital Markets Holdings LP.
Bulltick, Guerra, and former Quantek operations director Ralph Patino are charged along with Quantek in the SEC’s enforcement action. They agreed to pay more than USD3.1 million in total disgorgement and penalties to settle the charges, and Guerra and Patino agreed to securities industry bars.
“When making an investment decision, private fund investors are entitled to the unvarnished truth about material information such as management’s skin in the game or the adviser’s handling of related-party transactions,” said Bruce Karpati, Co-Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Asset Management Unit. “Quantek’s investors deserved better than the misleading information they received in marketing materials, side letters, and other fund documents.”
According to the SEC’s order instituting settled administrative proceedings, fund investors frequently inquire about the extent of the manager’s personal investment during their due diligence process, and many require it in fund selection. Quantek, particularly Patino, misrepresented to investors from 2006 to 2008 that management had skin in the game. These misstatements were made when responding to specific questions posed in due diligence questionnaires that were used to market the funds to new investors. Quantek made similar misrepresentations in side letter agreements executed by Guerra with two sought-after institutional investors.
The SEC’s order also found that Quantek misled investors about certain related-party loans made by the fund to affiliates of Guerra and Bulltick. Because the fund permitted related-party transactions with Bulltick and other Quantek affiliates, investors were wary of deals that were not properly disclosed. In 2006 and 2007, Quantek caused the fund to make related-party loans to affiliates of Guerra and Bulltick that were not properly documented or secured at the outset. Quantek and Bulltick employees later re-created the missing related-party loan documents, but misstated key terms of the loans and backdated the materials to give the appearance that the loans had been sufficiently documented and secured at all times. Quantek and Guerra provided this misleading loan information to the fund’s investors.
“The related-party transactions were problematic to begin with, and the false deal documents left investors in the dark about the adviser’s conflicts of interest,” says Scott Weisman, Assistant Director in the SEC Enforcement Division’s Asset Management Unit.
According to the SEC’s order, Quantek also repeatedly failed to follow the robust investment approval process it had described to investors in the fund. Quantek concealed this deficiency by providing investors with backdated and misleading investment approval memoranda signed by Guerra and other Quantek principals.
Quantek, Guerra, Bulltick, and Patino settled the charges without admitting or denying the findings. Quantek and Guerra agreed jointly to pay more than USD2.2 million in disgorgement and pre-judgment interest, and to pay financial penalties of USD375,000 and USD150,000 respectively. Bulltick agreed to pay a penalty of USD300,000, and Patino agreed to a penalty of USD50,000. Guerra consented to a five-year securities industry bar, and Patino consented to a securities industry bar of one year. Quantek and Bulltick agreed to censures. They all consented to orders that they cease and desist from committing or causing violations of certain antifraud, compliance, and recordkeeping provisions of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and the Securities Act of 1933.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Matthew Rossi in the Enforcement Division’s Asset Management Unit under the supervision of Weisman.