It was quite a week for some of the investor fights we’ve been following.
Lawyers for Shaohua “Michael” Yin have urged the federal court in Manhattan to toss the SEC’s insider-trading charges against the Wharton-trained, China-based money manager for buying millions of shares of DreamWorks stock with borrowed money in the weeks before the movie studio announced its sale to Comcast last year.
The SEC needs to show more than what the government calls “suspiciously” timed trades by Yin in his parents’ and other clients’ accounts while secret DreamWorks takeover talks were still going on, Yin’s lawyers say. The SEC has to detail how Yin would have received and used illegally obtained information in buying up shares for his parents, his kids’ music teacher, and other clients.
Those trades netted nearly $30 million in profits — which the government has frozen in brokerage accounts, pending its civil complaint. Yin may indeed have “engaged in profitable trading” — but that doesn’t mean he broke the law, according to a legal memorandum his lawyers Michael S. Sommer and Megan E. Wall-Wolff, of the New York office of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, sent the court last week.
The SEC “larded its complaint with irrelevant assertions” that Comcast, another potential buyer, and their U.S.- and China-based advisers had pledged not to leak any information, and that Yin had made money in other “unrelated” cases by buying stocks ahead of deals, the memo notes. An amended SEC complaint that names Yin’s former coworker, investment adviser Chaofeng Ji, as a possible source of inside information (as well as another unnamed insider) fails to show “that any insider breached a duty,” Yin’s lawyers argue.
According to a Comcast letter filed by the SEC to support its case, the Philadelphia-based internet and video giant learned DreamWorks was for sale through a law firm whose members represented Comcast and also hoped to work for a China-based investment company negotiating to buy DreamWorks early last year. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts then outbid the other company, PAG Asia Capital, and bought DreamWorks for $3.8 billion.
Brian Block, a Hatfield resident and a member of the real estate financial team set up by Nicholas Schorsch, the Jenkintown scrap-metal heir turned Manhattan-based real estate mogul, was convicted June 30 of defrauding public company investors by approving inflated financial reports for one of Schorsch’s former companies, American Realty Capital Partners Inc.
The Justice Department charged Block, American Realty’s former chief financial officer, with planning the fraud alongside Lisa McAlister, the company’s chief accounting officer. McAlister pleaded guilty to charges last year and testified against Block, who plans to appeal, Bloomberg reported. He’s scheduled for sentencing Oct. 26.
Schorsch hasn’t been charged for losses at American Realty (now known as Vereit and based in Arizona). He is named in a string of lawsuits by pension funds and other investors who say Schorsch and his allies were shoveling cash out of the companies while maintaining publicly that they were accepting lower-than-usual fees. Former Pa. Gov. Ed Rendell was a director of some of Schorsch’s companies.
Magerman drops suit
David Magerman, the data scientist, philanthropist, and Main Line restaurateur who filed a wrongful-firing suit against his boss, billionaire Renaissance Technologies L.L.C. partner Robert Mercer, after criticizing Mercer’s financing of President Trump, Brietbart News, and Steve Bannon, a Breitbart chief turned Trump aide, has dropped the suit. “We made a decision to withdraw without prejudice,” said H. Robert Fiebach, one of Magerman’s lawyers, told me, declining further comment. “This was a meritless, frivolous, vexatious, and sanctionable lawsuit that never should have been brought in the first place, so it was inevitable that it would be withdrawn or dismissed,” said Randy Mastro, Robert Mercer’s lawyer.
Liberty seeks delay
Michael Liberty, a former Maine property developer and investor who helped convince Wellington Management Co. and Philadelphia investors Robert Turner and Richard Vague to pump millions into the would-be global financial tech network Mozido, has won a delay in prison sentencing on his Maine political campaign-finance law violations because his lawyer said he fell down stairs and can’t sit still long enough to fly from his Florida home to a Maine courtroom, the Bangor Daily News reports.
Liberty also faces a hearing on SEC accusations that he lied when he claimed he was too broke to pay $6 million he owed the underfunded public-worker pension plans of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and two Massachusetts communities, when he lost their money in unapproved investments in the early 2000s. Liberty’s lawyers are scheduled to meet the SEC in Philadelphia Monday to settle the claim.