By Katherine Burton and David Scheer
March 2 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. Department of Justice has sent notices to hedge funds telling them not to destroy trading records involving bets on the euro, according to a person who has seen the requests.
The notices went to at least some of the hedge funds whose executives attended an idea dinner hosted by New York-based research and brokerage firm Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co. on Feb. 8, said the person, who declined to be identified because the information is private.
One of the 23 themes discussed at the dinner was a wager that the euro would fall against the dollar, according to an agenda of the meeting obtained by Bloomberg News. Aaron Cowen, an executive at SAC Capital Advisors LP,David Einhorn, head of Greenlight Capital LLC, and Don Morgan, who runs Brigade Capital Management LLC, attended the dinner, as did a representative from Soros Fund Management LLC, the Wall Street Journal said Feb. 25.
“The big issue is whether the meeting was informational, and these various traders were simply responding in a parallel way to a common set of facts,” which would be legal, said Herbert Hovenkamp, who teaches antitrust law at the University of Iowa College of Law in Iowa City.
“What’s not legal is for people to agree to trade at a particular price or against the euro to devalue it and start a stampede that devalues it further,” he said.
Bullish on Canada
Spokespeople for the hedge funds declined to comment or didn’t return calls seeking a comment. Neil Crespi, president of Monness Crespi, couldn’t be reached for comment. Gina Talamona, a Department of Justice spokeswoman, declined to comment. The requests were reported earlier today by CNBC.
Even if the Depart of Justice decides to request the records, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the managers will be investigated, said Jedd Wider, a partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.
Other ideas discussed at the dinner, which took place at the Townhouse, a private dining facility run by restaurant Park Avenue Winter, were bullish bets on the Canadian dollar and Philip Morris International and bearish wagers on Wells Fargo & Co. and Bank of America Corp.
The euro has tumbled 11 percent since Nov. 25 on concern that Greece may not be able to finance its debt. It traded at $1.3610 as of 6:25 p.m. New York time.
The premium investors demand to buy Greek government debt over comparable German bonds, the European benchmark, rose to 396 basis points on Jan. 28, the highest since the start of the euro in 1999, making it more expensive for the country to sell new bonds. Sovereign credit default swaps, used to insure against default, rose to a record last month.
The European Commission has said it will investigate trades in sovereign credit default swaps in the wake of the Greek debt crisis, saying they can fuel speculation that can distort market perceptions.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is considering ways to “tighten up rules” in the sovereign CDS market. French Finance MinisterChristine Lagarde said Feb. 17 “we should examine the suitability” of credit swaps.
Last Updated: March 2, 2010 19:36 EST