New York Hedge Fund Founder Sentenced For Bankruptcy Fraud
Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that DANIEL KAMENSKY, the founder and former manager of New York-based hedge fund Marble Ridge Capital (“Marble Ridge”), was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to six months in prison for engaging in fraud and extortion to pressure a rival bidder to abandon its higher bid for assets in connection with Neiman Marcus’s bankruptcy proceedings so that Marble Ridge could obtain those assets for a lower price. KAMENSKY pled guilty on February 3, 2021, before United States District Judge Denise L. Cote, who imposed today’s sentence.
U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “Daniel Kamensky committed bankruptcy fraud – undermining the integrity of bankruptcy proceedings and violating his fiduciary responsibility – in an effort to take extra profits for himself and his hedge fund. As he himself predicted, this fraud has now landed Daniel Kamensky in prison.”
As alleged in the Complaint, the Information, and statements made in court:
DANIEL KAMENSKY was the principal of Marble Ridge, a hedge fund with assets under management of more than $1 billion that invested in securities in distressed situations, including bankruptcies. Prior to opening Marble Ridge, KAMENSKY worked for many years as a bankruptcy attorney at a well-known international law firm, and as a distressed debt investor at prominent financial institutions.
The Neiman Marcus Bankruptcy
Neiman Marcus, an American chain of luxury department stores with stores located across the United States, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas (the “Bankruptcy Court”) in May 2020. At the outset of the bankruptcy, Marble Ridge, through KAMENSKY, applied to be on the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors (the “Committee”) and was thereafter appointed to be a member of the Committee. As a member of the Committee, KAMENSKY had a fiduciary duty to represent the interests of all unsecured creditors as a group.
During the bankruptcy process, the Committee had negotiated with the owners of Neiman Marcus to obtain certain securities, known as MyTheresa Series B Shares (the “MYT Securities”), and ultimately, the Committee was successful in coming to a settlement to obtain 140 million shares of MYT Securities for the benefit of certain unsecured creditors of the bankruptcy estate. In July 2020, KAMENSKY was negotiating with the Committee for Marble Ridge to offer 20 cents per share to purchase MYT Securities from any unsecured creditor who preferred to receive cash, rather than MYT Securities, as part of that settlement.
Kamensky’s Fraudulent Scheme
On July 31, 2020, KAMENSKY learned that a diversified financial services company headquartered in New York, New York (the “Investment Bank”), had informed the Committee that it was interested in bidding a price between 30 and 40 cents per share – substantially higher than KAMENSKY’s bid – to purchase the MYT Securities from any unsecured creditor who was interested in receiving cash.
That afternoon, KAMENSKY sent messages to a senior trader at the Investment Bank (“IB Employee-1”) telling him not to place a bid, and followed those messages up with a phone call with IB Employee-1 and a senior analyst of the Investment Bank (“IB Employee-2,” and collectively the “Employees”). During that call, KAMENSKY asserted that Marble Ridge should have the exclusive right to purchase MYT Securities, and he threatened to use his official role as co-chair of the Committee to prevent the Investment Bank from acquiring the MYT Securities. KAMENSKY also stated that Marble Ridge had been a client of the Investment Bank in the past but that if the Investment Bank moved forward with its bid, then Marble Ridge would cease doing business with the Investment Bank.
The Investment Bank thereafter decided not to make a bid to purchase MYT Securities and informed the legal adviser to the Committee of its decision. The Investment Bank further told the legal adviser it made that decision because KAMENSKY – a client of the Investment Bank – had asked them not to.
Advisers to the Committee informed counsel for Marble Ridge of their call with the Employees, and after speaking with KAMENSKY, counsel for Marble Ridge falsely informed the advisers that KAMENSKY had not asked the Employees not to bid, but instead had told them to place a bid only if they were serious. Later that evening, KAMENSKY contacted IB Employee-1 and attempted to influence what IB Employee-1 would tell others, including the Committee and law enforcement, about KAMENSKY’s attempt to block the Investment Bank’s bid for the MYT Securities. KAMENSKY said at the outset of the call, in substance, “this conversation never happened.” During the call, KAMENSKY asked IB Employee-1 to say falsely that IB Employee-1 had been mistaken and KAMENSKY had actually suggested that the Investment Bank bid only if it were serious, and made comments including the following: “Do you understand . . . I can go to jail?” “I pray you tell them that it was a huge misunderstanding, okay, and I’m going to invite you to bid and be part of the process.” “But I’m telling you . . . this is going to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. This is going to go to the court.” “[I]f you’re going to continue to tell them what you just told me, I’m going to jail, okay? Because they’re going to say that I abused my position as a fiduciary, which I probably did, right? Maybe I should go to jail. But I'm asking you not to put me in jail.”
During a subsequent interview with the Office of the United States Trustee, which was conducted under oath and in the presence of counsel, KAMENSKY stated that his calls to IB Employee-1 were a “terrible mistake” and “profound errors in lapses of judgment.”
After this series of events, Marble Ridge resigned from the Committee and advised its investors that it intended to begin winding down operations and returning investor capital.
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In addition to his prison term, KAMENSKY, 48, of Roslyn, New York, was sentenced to six months of supervised release on home confinement and ordered to pay a fine of $55,000.
Ms. Strauss praised the work of the FBI. Ms. Strauss further thanked the Office of United States Trustee and the Securities and Exchange Commission for their cooperation and assistance in this investigation.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Richard Cooper and Daniel Tracer are in charge of the prosecution.