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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Minnesota

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Hedge Fund Managers Indicted On Multiple Counts Of Wire Fraud

Acting United States Attorney Gregory G. Brooker today announced an indictment charging STEVEN MARKUSEN, 63, and JAY COPE, 58, with multiple counts of wire fraud in a stock trading scheme.[1] MARKUSEN and COPE will make their initial appearances in U.S. District Court at a later date.

 

According to the indictment, MARKUSEN was the sole owner, CEO and managing member of Archer Advisors LLC (“Archer”), which he formed in 2002. COPE was employed by Archer and at various times held the titles of chief operating officer, managing member, and research associate, and whose primary duties were operations, investor relations, and marketing for Archer. The sole business purpose of Archer was to serve as the investment manager for two private hedge funds, the Archer Equity Fund LLC (“Equity Fund”) and the Archer Focus Fund LLC (“Focus Fund”) (collectively, the “Funds”). At their peak, the Funds had more than $36 million in net assets.

 

According to the indictment, the Funds paid Archer monthly management fees, annual performance fees, and reimbursements for eligible expenses incurred by Archer. All payments to Archer were made through a third-party administrator. To place trades, MARKUSEN and COPE used brokerage firms, including certain brokerage firms that offered what is known as a “soft dollar program,” which is an incentive program where Archer would be credited a percentage of the commission paid by the Funds to the brokerage firms for each trade. Archer could use these commission percentages, called “soft dollars,” for the limited purpose of purchasing third-party research services to help Archer make investment decisions for the Funds.

 

According to the indictment, in 2008, COPE began submitting monthly invoices to Archer claiming he had performed research for Archer. MARKUSEN would then request reimbursement from the third-party administrator for COPE’S expenses, which were paid to Archer separate from the monthly management fees. Beginning in approximately April 2009, Archer stopped paying COPE’S fees, however, from April 2009 through October 2013, MARKUSEN continued to falsely represent to the third-party administrator that Archer had paid COPE’S fees and to fraudulently request reimbursements when, in reality, the defendants had caused soft dollars to be used to pay for COPE’S research fees. Every time Archer executed trades using one of the brokers who offered a soft dollar program, additional soft dollars were generated. MARKUSEN authorized COPE’S monthly research invoices, as well as reimbursements for other purported expenses, to be paid from the soft dollar accounts. Between May 2009 and October 2013, soft dollars were used to pay more than $500,000 in research expenses purportedly incurred by Archer, more than 80 percent of which went to COPE.

 

According to the indictment, as part of the scheme, MARKUSEN and COPE engaged in fraudulent trading activity that was designed to ensure that the soft dollar accounts contained sufficient funds to cover COPE’S monthly invoices. MARKUSEN and COPE closely monitored the soft dollar balance, and, after learning that it was in arrears, they began “day trading,” buying and then selling a position on the same trading day. MARKUSEN and COPE also attempted to artificially inflate the value of the Funds through a market-manipulation scheme known as “marking the close.” Through this scheme, MARKUSEN and COPE purchased large volumes of shares of a thinly traded stock in the closing minutes of the last day of the month, oftentimes at or above the prevailing market prices. Through these efforts, MARKUSEN and COPE were able to cause the stock to close at artificially high prices at the end of numerous months, which resulted in an artificially exaggerated increase in the overall value of the Funds.

 

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI.

 

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney John E. Kokkinen and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Ariella Guardi with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

 

 

Defendant Information:

 

STEVEN MARKUSEN, 63

Minneapolis, Minn.

 

Charges:

  • Mail fraud, 8 counts

 

JAY COPE, 58

Victoria, Minn.

 

Charges:

  • Mail fraud, 4 counts

     

 

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United States Attorney’s Office, District of Minnesota: (612) 664-5600

 

 

The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Component(s): 
Updated August 23, 2017