Steven Cohen, the billionaire who is widely reported to be the ultimate target of prosecutors investigating insider trading at his hedge fund, has to be either crazy-reckless or supremely confident of his innocence. Either way, the master-of-the-universe buying spree he went on last week must make him the ultimate nightmare for the savvy financial PR firm that represents him, Sard Verbinnen &Co.
On the heels of a proposed $616 million insider trading civil settlement with the SEC – which a federal judge last week said he was skeptical about approving because Cohen’s firm admitted no wrong-doing, and which prosecutors have taken pains to point out does not end their criminal investigation – Cohen made headlines last Monday by buying a Picasso for $155 million. The next day he got still more ink, this time for snagging a place in the Hamptons for $60 million down the road from an estate he already owns there.
That’s hardly the kind of keep-your-head-down behavior one might expect from someone trying to hold prosecutors at bay and soften public calls for his beheading. When a longtime top deputy was marched out of his Park Avenue coop early Friday morning after being arrested by the FBI, the bulls-eye on Cohen became that much more obvious and made his over-the-top buying spree that much more bizarre.
So, while the straight news stories about these purchases or about the ongoing investigation are fine, I’d like to read something about whether this guy is crazy, and about what his PR people at Sard Verbinnen – who’ve represented such villains-of-the-moment as Martha Stewart and former Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld – have been telling him about this kamikaze behavior.
Could Cohen be so deluded that he thought that the purchases – which were destined to become highly publicized because of their size and which Cohen’s PR people made no effort to hide – would provide “What-me-worry?” reassurance to his investors or be an intimidating display of strength to the prosecutors? I’d pay a lot for the video rights to whatever discussions Cohen had about all of this with the Sard Verbinnen team, but I’ll settle for a print story with some leaks of the conversations.