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Famed hedge fund manager and spurned New York Mets suitor David Einhorn saw a hit to his otherwise strong reputation Wednesday when Britain's Financial Services Authority announced it has fined his Greenlight Capital hedge fund, as well as Einhorn personally.
Reuters reports Einhorn and Greenlight are alleged to have engaged in “trading abuses,” according to the FSA, related to the use of inside information he obtained from a broker before selling shares in a U.K. public company in 2009.
The news service reports the total fine amounts to 7.2 million pounds ($11 million).
“The regulator said Einhorn had learned from a telephone conversation with the broker that British pub company Punch Taverns was on the verge of a significant equity fundraising, prompting Einhorn to sell down his holdings before an expected fall in the shares,” Reuters writes. “The FSA said Einhorn's decision to sell stock in the wake of the call allowed Greenlight to avoid losses of around $9 million (5.8 million pounds).”
Einhorn defended his action to investors, saying that he did not believe he or the firm had any inside information when it traded the stock. He claimed the chief executive of Punch Taverns had reiterated to him during that conference call that no formal decision to issue equity had been made at the time their conversation took place.
"It was unambiguous," Einhorn told Greenlight investors during a conference call on Wednesday. "Nothing had been decided. Nothing was imminent. I was told no decision had been made and Punch was simply exploring strategic alternatives to raise funds.”
"The FSA accepted that Einhorn's trading was not deliberate because he did not believe that it was inside information. However, this was not a reasonable belief," FSA said, according to Reuters.
On his conference call, Einhorn blamed politics, noting the British regulator was determined to "score a win against a high profile American hedge fund."
Reuters notes that Einhorn is “one of the hedge fund industry's best known managers after big, successful bets against financial firms including Lehman Brothers.
“He said the FSA's action was unjust and inconsistent with its prior enforcement precedent, but had decided to settle to focus on managing his business,” Reuters reported.