The SEC brought charges against a Houston-based hedge fund manager and his firm accused of defrauding investors in two hedge funds. The SEC further alleged that the hedge fund manager steered bloated fees to a brokerage firm CEO, who also was charged in the administrative action.
George R. Jarkesy Jr. worked closely with Thomas Belesis to launch two hedge funds that raised $30 million from investors. The SEC alleged that Jarkesy and his firm John Thomas Capital Management (since renamed Patriot28 LLC) inflated valuations of the funds’ assets, causing the value of investors’ shares to be overstated and his management and incentive fees to be increased. Jarkesy, a frequent media commentator and radio talk show host, also lied to investors about the identity of the funds’ auditor and prime broker. Meanwhile, although they shared the same “John Thomas” brand name, Jarkesy’s firm and Belesis’ firm John Thomas Financial were portrayed as wholly independent. Jarkesy led investors to believe that as manager of the funds, he was solely responsible for all investment decisions. However, Belesis sometimes supplanted Jarkesy as the decision-maker and directed some investments from the hedge funds into a company in which his firm was heavily invested. Belesis also bullied Jarkesy into showering excessive fees on John Thomas Financial even in instances where the firm had done virtually nothing to earn them.
According to the SEC, Jarkesy launched the two hedge funds in 2007 and 2009, and they were called John Thomas Bridge and Opportunity Fund LP I and John Thomas Bridge and Opportunity Fund LP II. The funds invested in three asset classes: bridge loans to start-up companies, equity investments principally in microcap companies, and life settlement policies. Jarkesy mispriced certain holdings to increase the net asset values of the funds, which were the basis for calculating the management and incentive fees that Jarkesy deducted from the funds for himself. Jarkesy also falsely claimed that prominent service providers such as KPMG and Deutsche Bank worked with the funds.
The SEC stated that Jarkesy used fund assets to hire multiple stock promoters in 2010 and 2011 to create an artificial and unsustainable spike in the price of two microcap stocks in which the funds were heavily invested. As a result of these efforts, the funds recorded temporary gains in the value of the microcap stocks that Jarkesy used to mask the write-down of other more illiquid holdings of the funds.
Please click here to access the administrative order.