Phil Falcone’s ray of sunshine

December 12, 2011

By Matthew Goldstein

Leave it to Phil Falcone to find a glimmer of good news to relay to the beleaguered investors in his Harbinger Capital Partners. A day after U.S. securities regulators threatened to sanction the billionaire hedge fund manger for alleged trading irregularities, Falcone told investors in his roughly $4 billion firm that not all is lost.

In a note emailed to investors the day after Falcone officially learned the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is considering charging him with a number of securities law violations, the former Harvard hockey star told them that nothing the SEC is looking at involves his beloved LightSquared.

Additionally, it is important to note that neither Harbinger Group Inc. (“HRG”) nor LightSquared were the
recipient of a Wells Notice, nor was either involved in any of the events being investigated.  Moreover, the
Wells Notices received by HCP and certain affiliates are not related to any of the HCP funds’ investments in
HRG, LightSquared or their predecessors.

Harbinger Group is the publicly traded company Falcone acquired over a year ago, which has served as an dumping ground for some of the hedge fund assets. But Harbinger Group is inconsequential compared to LightSquared, the upstart wireless telecom that Falcone has just about bet all of his investors money on. Falcone’s hedge fund has sunk more than $3 billion in equity into LightSquared and to this day it remains just about the only equity investor in the company.

As we said in a Aug. 2010 special report, the success or failure of Falcone’s hedge fund now rides solely on whether or not LightSquared can get its planned 4G high-speed network off the ground.

But that seems increasingly unlikely given the growing concern that LightSquared’s broadcast spectrum interferes with the global positioning systems used by the Dept of Defense and the aviation industry. On Capitol Hill, opposition to LightSquared grows with each passing day and some lawmakers like Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, keep pressing the Federal Communications Commission to release more information about its dealings with the Falcone-backed telecom.

There’s real concern amongst the hedge funds that invested in LightSquared’s high-yield debt, that the company could run out of money early next year. It’s high-yielding loans, which were trading for 90 cents on the dollar during the summer are now trading below 50 cents on the dollar. That’s the kind of haircut that’s often seem with a company just scraping to get by.

So yes, Falcone is right the SEC is not looking at any of Harbinger’s dealings with LightSquared. The trouble is there are plenty of others who are already doing that and that should provide little comfort to Harbinger investors.


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