NEW YORK » A giant hedge fund led by an embattled billionaire pledged to continue normal operations after an indictment accusing it of permitting an environment where extensive insider trading could reap hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal profits for more than a decade was unsealed in Manhattan federal court.
SAC Capital Advisors said in a statement Thursday that federal prosecutors had advised the Stamford, Conn.-based company that charges of wire fraud and securities fraud unveiled earlier in the day were not meant to affect the operations of its business.
"SAC will continue to operate as we work through these matters," the company said. It added that it expected to agree with the government on a protective order that would "permit SAC to continue its operations in the ordinary course."
Lawyers for the company were expected to appear in federal court today as the company faces the charges.
The criminal indictment and civil lawsuits brought against SAC Capital Advisors and related companies did not name billionaire Steven A. Cohen as a defendant, referencing him only as the "SAC owner" who "enabled and promoted" insider trading practices.
At a news conference, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said SAC "trafficked in inside information on a scale without any known precedent in the history of hedge funds."
"When so many people from a single hedge fund have engaged in insider trading, it is not a coincidence," the prosecutor said. "It is, instead, the predictable product of substantial and pervasive institutional failure."
He declined to comment on whether Cohen would be charged, saying: "I’m not going to say what tomorrow may or may not bring."
From 1999 to 2010, the company earned hundreds of millions of dollars illegally as its portfolio managers and analysts traded on inside information from at least 20 public companies, Bharara said.
The possibility that the criminal case could topple the Stamford, Conn., firm, which once managed $15 billion in assets, led the prosecutor to note that the government was not seeking to freeze SAC’s assets. Bharara added that prosecutors were "mindful to minimize risk to third-party investors."
Still, the government in one lawsuit sought SAC’s forfeiture of "any and all" assets.
The charges came less than a week after federal regulators accused Cohen in a related civil case of failing to prevent insider trading at the firm. While the Justice Department’s action targets SAC but not Cohen directly, the civil case brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission seeks to effectively shut him down by barring him from managing investor funds.
In its statement, SAC Capital said Thursday it "has never encouraged, promoted or tolerated insider trading and takes its compliance and management obligations seriously."
It added: "The handful of men who admit they broke the law does not reflect the honesty, integrity and character of the thousands of men and women who have worked at SAC over the past 21 years."
A lawyer for Cohen did not immediately respond to a message for comment. Last week, an SAC Capital spokesman said "Steve Cohen acted appropriately at all times."
Associated Press writers Christina Rexrode in New York and Marcy Gordon in Washington contributed to this report.