The burden of being SAC Capital’s “Portfolio Manager B”

April 3, 2013

Michael Steinberg, the SAC Capital Advisers portfolio manager who was arrested at the crack of dawn last Friday morning probably envies former Goldman Sachs trader Matthew Taylor’s rush-hour surrender to the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday.

While Steinberg was led away in handcuffs as a Wall Street Journal reporter took shaky video footage of the scene outside his door at 6am, Taylor sauntered into FBI headquarters in New York on his own, at 8:30am, having had plenty of time to collect his wits with a cup of hot coffee.

The difference between Steinberg’s dramatic arrest and Taylor’s quiet surrender highlights a theatrical strategy the FBI and prosecutors use for big cases. It does not bode well for the other potential targets in the high-profile insider trading investigation into Steven A. Cohen’s $15 billion hedge fund, which increasingly seems to be the primary focus of the government’s attempt to go after wrongful trading in the hedge fund industry.

And that, of course raises, the question of who might be next SAC Capital trader federal authorities will go after. No one except the FBI, prosecutors and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission knows for sure, but the case against Steinberg does raise some uncomfortable questions for Gabriel Plotkin, a portfolio manager at SAC’s unit Sigma Capital Management. Plotkin, while not named in the Steinberg case, is identified as “Portfolio Manager B,” according to sources familiar with the matter, in the SEC’s civil complaint.

According to the Steinberg SEC complaint, Steinberg “arranged to share Dell inside information with another portfolio manager at Sigma,” who is afterward referred to as “Portfolio Manager B.” The complaint goes on to say that as a result of trading by Steinberg and “Portfolio Manager B” SAC clocked $6.4 million in a combination of profits and loss avoidances.

To date, Plotkin, who is one of Cohen’s top earners, has not been charged with any wrongdoing. But the long and winding insider trading investigation has shown that when authorities allude to a person in a complaint it often is to send a message. Remember, Steinberg himself was alluded to—but not named—in the initial charges against Jon Horvath, the former SAC Capital analyst who pleaded guilty and is cooperating in the case against his former supervisor.

“Gabe Plotkin has not been accused of wrongdoing and has done nothing wrong,” said a spokesman for SAC. “He has built a successful career on a commitment to sound fundamental research. Plotkin lost over $6 million that day on a large Dell long position. He owned 1.8 million shares and 3,000 of October 24 call options.”

Plotkin has retained an attorney for the investigation, according to sources. But the sources declined to identify the lawyer.

To be sure, maybe nothing happens to Plotkin. Late last year we reported that Plotkin was one of several consumer stock portfolio managers who were being eyed by federal authorities in  SAC Capital’s allegedly suspicious trading in Weight Watchers International stock and options ahead of a quarterly earnings report. We’ve since been told that inquiry, which is still ongoing, has moved on to others at SAC Capital.

But Plotkin, we are told by a law enforcement source, still draws interest because his name appeared on some of the same emails about Dell’s earnings that were sent by Horvath to  Steinberg. Prosecutors used the emails as evidence against former SAC analyst Jon Horvath, who pleaded guilty to insider trading last year, and they are also likely to serve as evidence against Steinberg.

Steinberg spent weeks before his arrest bouncing between different New York City hotel rooms to avoid the humiliation of being arrested at home, and for months his arrest had been speculated on in the press. For now there’s nothing to suggest anything like that awaits Plotkin. But with authorities continuing to bear down on Cohen and his hedge fund, just being alluded to in a complaint can make for some discomfit.

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