Raided U.S. hedge funds face a long struggle

By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

BOSTON (Reuters) - If history is any guide, three hedge funds raided by U.S. federal agents a week ago face a daunting task to return to business as usual, and may be left with only one good option: return money to their wealthy clients.

So far no one has been charged with wrongdoing, but legal experts and investors say lasting damage may have been done.
For investors, the risk lies in whether the managers of these once well-regarded funds will be able to focus on selecting stocks and raising new capital at the same time they are busy calming nerves and working to clear their own names.

"The longer you have this kind of back-and-forth between the government and a hedge fund, the more difficult it can become for a fund to survive," said Brad Balter, chief investment officer at Balter Capital Management.
"No allocator wants to simply sit there in the face of this potential risk, and so people start putting in their redemption notices," said Balter, whose firm invests in hedge funds.

William Brandt, who advises troubled hedge funds at Development Specialists Inc, expressed a similar view and said investors were right to worry about whether a fund that had been raided by authorities can continue to thrive.
"It is not a death knell, but it is pretty close," Brandt said. "In the financial world, you are often guilty until proven innocent, not the other way around."

FBI raids are rare on Wall Street. It's a technique usually reserved for busting up the likes of "pump and dump" brokerages that are selling worthless stock to the public. The normal way for authorities to gather information from hedge funds and other financial firms is through a subpoena.

So the $1.7 trillion hedge fund community was shocked when the FBI came calling at Level Global Investors, Diamondback Capital Management and Loch Capital Management last Monday and hauled away dozens of boxes of documents.

Even before the raids, Loch Capital had suffered heavy redemptions in recent months as investors expressed concern about the close personal ties between the firm's founders and a witness in another insider trading case, the Galleon probe.

On Monday, Diamondback Capital Management told investors it had put one of its portfolio managers on leave. In a letter to investors, Diamondback's managers said the fund itself was "not a target of the government's investigation."

Level Global, the third fund that was raided, also told its investors that it had been advised that it was not a target of the government's insider trading investigation.

Still, the funds are scrambling to contain the damage.
David Ganek, manager of the $4 billion Level Global fund, backed out of a scheduled appearance on Tuesday with Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro at an event sponsored by his alumni association at Franklin and Marshall College in